Proscriptor & Equitant of Absu
Hailing from Plano, Texas, Absu sets a hard earned standard for American black metal. This is evident as furious musicianship set to masterful storytelling culminates on their latest studio release, Tara. Two of the three “Highland Tyrants” Proscriptor and Equitant recently took some time to talk with MetalReview about Absu’s recent anthology, their solo-efforts, and Proscriptor’s encounter with Slayer among other things.
Patrick Rennick: Absu’s newest release is a collection of covers, rare songs, and live tracks titled, Mythological Occult Metal. What led to your decision to release this?
Proscriptor: Well, it was about 10-11 months ago. There was a guy from the states named Peter Tucker. He basically made an online petition for fans and followers of Absu to sign to get a new studio album released. That’s kind of impossible at this point so, he came up with the idea to maybe releasing an anthology which I have thought about doing for a couple of years myself. He actually passed the petition with all the signatures to me and Osmose productions. A couple hundred people had signed it. I thought it was a good idea and basically what I did was I delved into all of the audio archives of Absu; basically everything we have recorded that is not featured on the official five releases that are on Osmose. Equitant compiled all the songs, I remixed and re-mastered them and it comes out Tuesday (10/18/05). It was supposed to come out Monday but Osmose pushed it back due to a couple of misprints with the booklets.
PR: What is the official status of Absu? Is the band working on any new material?
P: We’re not working on any new material. We do have a self-titled album that has been shelved at this point. We have not disbanded. We are basically on hiatus at this point. All the other members of Absu including myself are working on various projects. There may be a new studio album somewhere down the road.
PR: Does Absu have any plans to tour anytime soon? If so would any shows in the states be planned?
PR: You are also a member of the band Melechesh. What has it been like playing with this band while at the same time remaining a member of Absu? Has the band been working on any new material lately?
P: I joined the band in the latter part of 1999. I have recorded two albums with them. I brought them on to the Osmose productions roster. They are working on a new album. I will not be participating on it due to time and distance. I however, will be contributing some lyrical patterns and some vocals to the next album. But, as far as my drumming executions, I will not be participating on the new album.
PR: I heard that Melechesh moved from the middle-east to the Netherlands.
P: Yeah, they did in 1998. Ashmedi and Al’ Hazred live in Amsterdam while Moloch, the other guitar player lives in Little France. They have not been in Israel since 1998.
PR: What was the reason for the move?
P: College and jobs were the two chief reasons why.
PR: How did you go about selecting the stage name Proscriptor?
P: Well, the pseudonym that I have comes from the word “proscribe,” which means to grant the words of the dead in a requiem. It’s a Latin based word. Since it means to proscribe words and since I am a chief lyricist in Absu I thought it would be the best moniker to suit myself.
PR: I understand that at one point you were rehearsing with the noted metal band Slayer but, I read somewhere that you left due to your, “occult beliefs” could you elaborate on this story for me?
P: I auditioned for them but that is not true whatsoever. I auditioned with several other drummers. According to Slayer’s management I was the third pick. As far as my Thelemic, occult, and esoteric beliefs; that didn’t have anything to do with the consideration of me playing with Slayer. I truly believe that all the drummers that auditioned for the band were not going to get the position to begin with. I think it was just a ploy to bring Lombardo back into Slayer full-time.
PR: How was the experience of rehearsing with them?
P: Fantastic. It was outstanding, astounding. I can honestly say that it was a once in a lifetime experience. It has been documented on video and it was pretty amazing.
PR: Is this video online? Is there anyplace we could see it?
P: No. The thing is I’m the only one who has it. I would like to release it but I would probably get into some legal disputes if I were to release that online.
PR: Do you think that maybe somewhere down the road you could throw that on a DVD or something?
P: Yeah, possibly. I was actually thinking about including it on this anthology but there were just too many legal hassles.
PR: It seems a bit awkward to equate black metal with the state of Texas. Could you describe the black metal scene in the Lone Star state for me?
P: It’s had its ups and downs. It was very prosperous; it was very energetic in the late 80s with such bands as, Necrovore, Rigor Mortis, Morbid Scream, Talas, Sedition, Hell Preacher, Helstar, Watch Tower, Devastation, and so forth. By the time the early 90s rolled around it had become very dormant. It was very dead. There was not a lot going on in Texas and really not a lot going on in the U.S. at that time. We’ve always felt that we’ve been a European style black metal band. We were kind of in solitude back in the early 90s I would say.
PR: You have created your own record label named Tarot records, could you tell me about this label’s creation and goals?
P: I basically started the label two years ago. My main objective and goal is to release all of my work, including some of Absu’s other rare recordings which are not featured on the anthology as well as maybe the back catalogue later down the road. I do have about 12 releases that are in the catalogue right now that are to be released and some of those are going to be my solo-efforts. I will also be releasing some material from Morbid Scream, an old death-thrash band from Texas in the late 80s. Equitant also has two solo albums coming out, one in the later part of this year, another one in early 2006. Starchaser Network, another band that Equitant and I do will be releasing material. Tarot will also be re-releasing older recording from bands such as Goreaphobia, Divine Eve, Melechesh, and a few others.
PR: Equitant, could you tell me a bit about your new solo releases?
Equitant: It’s very electronic kind of like, Kraftwerk, an old German band from the 70s. It is what’s called, “electro.” It’s kind of darkish with some dark implements, kind of cold, mechanical; there are some robotic voices, lots of keyboards, and electronic drums. It’s a lot different from the stuff I did in the metal 90s.
PR: When exactly is this slated to be released?
E: We’re shooting for early 2006. Hopefully it will be out by then.
PR: Could you also tell me a bit about the band that you and Proscriptor are in together, Starchaser Network?
E: It is kind of electronic once again. It’s kind of retro-80s new-wave. It’s really kind of hard to describe because it’s really off-the-wall. It’s out there. I think people will really like it though because it’s a really different kind of music.
PR: Can you think of any reason that made you want to switch from metal to this more experimental music?
E: Well, I’ve always been into it over the years. It’s just another passage I wanted to travel.
PR: Proscriptor, what sparked your interest in the occult, mainly that of Celtic origin?
P: Probably the Native-American hallucinogenic drug, Peyote. Back when I was 13 years old I had a friend who turned me on to the book of “Thoth” by Mr. Crowley. It really opened my metaphysical mind and took my subconscious levels to new planes and plateaus of where I stand on this planet. Then I’ve always combined that with my ancestral background being Scotch-Irish. I’d say those two concocted together.
PR: I was looking at some pictures of you performing live and in one particular photo you seemed to be cut up pretty good around the chest - would you happen to remember what that was from?
P: Well, I fell off a mountain one night in Germany. That’s what happened. I was ok though, I performed the gigs and the concerts afterwards.
PR: What happened were you just hiking and you slipped?
P: No, it was after a show in Bischofswerda, Germany. To make a long story short (laughter) I fell, for many feet. But, nothing defeated me.
PR: It seems doubly impossible for you to sing at the same time when you are already playing so manically fast on the drum kit, how have you managed to pull off this feat?
P: Well, I first started singing for Absu on the debut album, Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. The reason for this being that the original vocalist besides Shaftiel, Daviel Athron Mysticia did not perform vocally to the standards of Absu. He only sang live, he never sang on any of the studio recordings. He did not rehearse the lyrics the way they should have been structured so to make a long story short, I took over on vocals and by the time The Son of Tipareth was out we were doing a lot of extensive touring and I’ve just accustomed my self to singing and playing simultaneously.
PR: So, it was all really just a matter of practice?
P: Correct, to make an analogy, being able to tackle two tasks at once and to make it synchronized is like taking the training wheels off of a bicycle. When I write the lyrics I also write them around the time signatures of the songs. Basically the lyrics are synchronized with the music and the tempos. This makes it much easier and more efficient.
PR: More so than a great deal of bands in the metal scene today Absu seems to have taken excruciating care in concocting lyrics. I understand that these lyrics have been mainly your responsibility on all of Absu’s releases. Where do you draw influence for these epic works? Could you describe for me the writing process for these elaborate concepts?
P: I refer to it as the three M’s, being Magic, Mythology, and Mysticism. As far as my lyrical inspirations are concerned, I would say that I’m mainly influenced by motifs of the Necronomicon, Sumerian myths and mythology, Celtic myths and legends, knighthood, Thelemic magic, ceremonial magic, Gnosticism, weaponry, chemical sciences, tarot, catalytic magic, and especially our ancestral roots ranging anywhere from the 9th to the 16th century. I would say that’s fundamentally what Absu is based upon.
PR: That’s quite a plateful there...
P: (laughter) yeah.
PR: Have you had any formal education in these subjects or are they just things you have researched on your own?
P: A little bit of both. I do have three college degrees.
PR: What are these degrees?
P: They are all music related. One is for vocals, Voice Diction, another one is called Composition and Arrangement in Contemporary Music, and the other is a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Performance. I have also taken some Philosophy classes and I’ve basically done a lot of self-research on my own.
PR: Where did you go to school?
P: I went to a community college in Dallas and I went to the University of Texas at Dallas.
PR: I have heard that you once took a pilgrimage a few years back to a Celtic location to further develop the band’s vision for the latest Absu album, Tara. Could you talk to me about this experience?
P: Well, it wasn’t me personally. I had sent our artist Kris Verwimp, a native of Belgium who has painted all of the previous Absu album covers. I sent him there and what he did was he actually went to the hill of Tara, excavated soil samples, took a lot of photographs, and brought them back to me. For the cover art of Tara he took some of the soil samples and mixed them into the paint. This really made Tara special because with the soil combined into the paint it’s like one is actually holding a piece of pagan history in their hands. I personally didn’t go though.
PR: Have you ever been to any historic Celtic locations?
P: I haven’t no, but I’d absolutely like to someday.
PR: I understand that you are also releasing solo albums. Could you talk to me a bit about these avant-garde releases?
P: They are very diverse. Some of it is ambient, in the vein of Tangerine Dream. There is also a little bit of folklore, new-wave, 70s progressive rock, and just whatever I’m in the mood to compose. There are really no boundaries with my solo-efforts. One release could be black metal while the other could be folklore, progressive, and/or ambient music.
PR: Are you working on any new material for your solo-project?
P: At the moment I’m not but I will be soon. The new album will be titled, Theta-E and it will be along the lines of ethereal, ambient music.
PR: Do you have any plans to tour under this solo project?
P: Maybe someday. Not at the moment though.
PR: I understand that the topic itself is quite complicated but I was wondering if you could shed some light for me on the various magics that you give reference to on your personal website. How are these affiliated with your musical endeavors?
P: Most of those sites, the divination sites, are basically dealing with Thelemic magic, the Golden Dawn, tarot, Numerology, alchemical sciences, and Gnosticism. They are basically websites that I utilize throughout my daily life more or less.
PR: What are your opinions on the state of the black metal scene today worldwide?
P: It fluctuates. It always has ever since Venom’s Black Metal album came out. It seems like it has its ups and downs, it rises and falls every three to four years. I always see a lot of good bands that are coming out and then three to four years down the road there’s always a dormant period. But, it’s like that with any style of music. I’m very meticulous about what I listen to that’s new. But, I like Carpathian Forest a lot. Some of the bands that I’m listening to now are: Aeturnus, Carpathian Forest, Disaster, Atomizer, Reverend Bizarre, Witchcraft, Root, and especially the early 90s black metal movement, especially Greek bands, Zemial, Agatus, Necromania, and old Rotting Christ. I’m a big fan of the early 90s Greek movement. As far as new bands though that’s what I’m listening to.
E: Honestly I don’t listen to anything much new. I do also like Carpathian Forest and Atomizer but as far as new stuff I don’t really listen to any of it. I still listen to the early 90s Darkthrone and all the early Norwegian bands I have always liked.
PR: Have either of you heard anything about some of the bands in the French black metal scene such as Blut Aus Nord?
PR: Well, you should check them out, they are very atmospheric and they focus a lot on utilizing dissonance.
E: Hmmm. Yeah maybe I’ll check that out.
Special thanks to the guys over at Hyberblast (www.hyperblastmetal.com) for helping out with the questions.