INTERVIEW WITH HOLY STEEL ZINE (ITALY), JANUARY 2002
Interview was between John Tarantula and Leonardo Cammi . Contact Leo at firstname.lastname@example.org for details of how to get a copy of Holy Steel. Thanks to Leo for his time and support.
1) First of all, why do you call your music Holy Black Sludge?
Hello Leo, just quickly to say thanks for the interview, will try to make it fun to read...
I guess 'black sludge' is a good description of what the music on the 'Through Pain there is Joy' demo sounds like or what we aimed for it to sound like! Horrible, dark and painful (black) with a slow and dirty production that hopefully adds to the atmosphere (sludge). Whether it worked or not is for others to decide :) Calling it sludge is also another way to get away with it having a bad production...
We put the 'holy' bit in for obvious reasons, to let people know what we're about and also as a tongue in cheek swipe at bands that like to proclaim that the play 'unholy black metal'. If they can say that, then I guess we call our music 'holy'!
2) Your mission in the music scene?
Musically we aim to continue as we have started, hopefully getting better at it along the way. I want the band to continue to write music that combines the good elements of extreme doom, death and black metal and pours out a sound that is dark, morbid and hopeless, appealing to a small number of like minded people. At the moment I have no care to write music that will appeal to a wide audience or be accepted by all. There are already plenty of Christian bands that do this so there is less need. I want to reach those people who do not like the more mainstream bands because of their commercially or relatively cheerful 'approach'. I love music that creates a soundscape of desperation and pain . This is what some people far from God can associate with and hopefully be reached through our music. All according to the will of our Master.
This also partly explains what we want to do spiritually in the scene, reach those who need to hear about the love of Christ; those who have no other way of hearing it and mostly think they don't want to hear it. We want to inform people of the Truth about God, not all the lies that many bands spread and believe. When I read the 'satanic' lyrics and attacks on the church that many bands produce, it is clear that many do not know what true Christianity is about. I have never read a good description of what real Christianity is, just what people think it is or have learned second hand. Christianity is primarily about serving the Lord Jesus Christ in a daily relationship and relying on his death on the cross to remove our wrongdoing that breaks the relationship between us and God. This is what its about, not religion or doing certain things or behaving in a certain way. Put the relationship first and everything else follows and is of secondary importance. This is the Truth about God we want to promote in the scene. We hope to counter the lies that are around about what being a Christian means. People can then make their own mind up and then have a fair choice. We don't aim to, or think it is possible, to force people to believe what we do, that is God's job. Often when you try to force people they react in the opposite direction. We just want to reach people with a message of hope
3) Can you tell the principal passages of Paradox history?
The band was formed in 1996 by me, my dad and brother, what you could call a family band! We wrote and recorded 'The Outcasts' demo in 1997. After this my friend wanted to join us on vocal s so we let him and then recorded the 'Through Pain there is Joy' demo during the summer of 2000. Since then basically the whole line up except me has changed, we have all new members! This was due to different circumstances, nothing bad though just how things work out. Now it's me on guitars and vocals, my friend Jeff on bass, another friend, Jasen on drums and another guitarist called Sam doing some lead stuff. We also have a keyboardist who will help us out for recording and gigs as she's too busy to commit full time. Each of us in the band go to the same church so we have the same vision and also have lots of fun! We recorded another three songs a couple of months ago though will only release two of them.. Now we're working on new stuff and want to get ready to do some gigs etc.
4) What are the main differences between the first demo The Outcasts and the last Through Pain There is Joy?
Probably the main difference is the sound quality. 'The Outcasts' was recorded in a studio as part of a music business course I was doing, so has fairly decent quality though is definitely still a demo. 'Through Pain there is Joy' was recorded on my friends 8 track machine in the crypt where we rehearse so that's how we got the authentic 'sludge' sound... I guess also the songs are a bit darker in content and longer and more painful though its hard for me to tell as I've heard them so much! Apart from that the two demos are pretty similar. The three new songs we recently recorded have a better production as we recorded them in a proper studio, though there are always things that you would like to do again. We had twelve hours from eight at night until eight in the morning to get it all done, so for the time we had and how tired we were it is OK. The actual songs are an improvement musically but still stick to the same format. The sound isn't as dark or 'sludgy' but at least you can hear everything!
5) You also have a promotion Can you tell us the significance of your motto No Lies, no Death, no Fear, no Compromise?
This is what we stand for in our 'mission' that I described earlier.
'No Lies' is referring to the fact that we do not have any desire to trick people or deceive them by what we say. Satan is the Father of all lies and loves to mess with peoples heads and fill them with rubbish. Jesus is the only Truth and we seek to represent him alone.
'No Death' is referring to the fact that as servants of Christ we have no reason to fear death, it has no power over us. The 'second death', or eternal separation from God, or hell, has been dealt with for us by the death of Jesus on the cross. He went to hell and suffered for all those who trust in Him. Once he had paid our punishment God raised him from dead and restored him to glory in Paradise. If we trust that Jesus suffered in our place we have no eternal death or hell to fear. Once we leave this world we have everlasting and perfect life in Paradise where we will see the Creator God face to face and live in unending joy with Him.
'No Fear' follows on from this in the fact that this world is not the end. We have no fear of death or those who could kill us as our eternal destination is secure. Nothing can take that from us. Through the unstoppable power of God will those who trust Him be brought to Heaven. Absolutely nothing in this world, spiritual, physical or otherwise can take this from us. We also have no reason to fear in this life either. We are God's precious children so whatever happens, whether it is good or bad, we know that He is with us. We can be secure knowing that He never leaves our side and will provide for us in every circumstance. This doesn't mean everything will always be easy, far from it. We have a certainty and sure hope though that calms our deepest fears and gives us assurance through the darkest and most difficult parts of our lives.
'No Compromise' means we will never tone down our lyrics or approach to please people or to make ourselves more popular. What we speak is not going to be accepted by all and I don't expect it ever to be. Serving Christ requires your whole life, whether you manage to achieve it or not. You can't do things by halves. You either belong to Jesus or you belong to the devil, whether this is conscious or not. Without Christ there is no way out of the control of satan and the sharing of his fate in hell. There is no sitting on the fence. I don't set out to offend people but what is say is not comfortable so some people will get offended. Of course we have brains though and don't ram things down peoples throats as most into metal have had enough of that from religious people. Like I've already said we want to give people a choice and then let them choose. People forced into things don't last long at them. If people have really had enough of a life of sin without hope then they will choose for themselves to follow Christ. God doesn't want sheep who follow blindly, he wants people to serve Him freely. If he wanted 'sheep' I guess he might 'force' everyone to follow Him now, which he doesn't do.
6) What are the main messages that you want transmit to your listeners?
I think I've probably answered this already! Basically that people have a choice to know the forgiveness of a loving God who will give them every spiritual blessing, if they choose. Often our pride and the fact that we think we're good enough without God will stop people from doing this. We need to fear God and realise who he is before we can come to Him. We come to Him on our knees asking for forgiveness and offering our lives in return. There is no other way.
7) Please introduce each member of the band and speak deeply about all the lyrics of your demoCD
Well, we have me, Michael / 'John Tarantula' who plays the rhythm guitar and does the higher pitched, more wailing vocals. I'm 24 years old and have just finished university, studying marketing and communications. Now I'm working at another university, in the housing office until I decide what to do next. Then we have Jasen / 'White Stick' our drummer who is from South Africa. He's been here for a year now and is currently doing a 'missionary / discipleship' course for a year. Next up is Jeff / 'Death Warrior' another South African who came over shortly before Jasen and knew each other back there. He's just finished a sound engineering course and is working in a mastering studio. Then we have Sam / 'Yellow Terror' who works at all types of things! Currently he's training as a barman and working as a dental assistant. He's planning to go to live in Malaysia in October 2002 to spend time with his family over there. Us four are the main core of the band and are all Christians who have made a conscious decision to follow Christ after discovering that the promises of this world are hollow. Then we have Rose / 'Dark Faery' who will play keyboards for us when we require or when she has time! Lastly we have Grey / 'The Invocator' who did vocals for the last two recordings. He's not a believer (yet!) but has no problem with what we do or stand for. At the moment he hasn't been to a band practice for a good few months so I'm not sure what's going on with him? We have me and Jeff doing vocals at the moment so we can cover him if needs be. Now onto the song lyrics...
The intro, 'Dedication Of The Sacrifice' is about dedicating our lives to the Master of all, offering our whole selves to Him as a fragrant and acceptable offering, our lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12 v 1). This was thought to be a fitting beginning to the CD and to any walk with God - we must come before Him before we can do anything.
'Slavery' is a song reflecting addiction to drugs and the mental pain it brings. It tells of my struggle to beat drug addiction, being slowly set free by the truth about Jesus and the peace and freedom that being in Him brings. It ends with a cry to God for help and release.
'The Unapproachable Light' is a slow doom / black praise song about the King of kings and Lord of lords. We wanted to write a horrible and ugly song that crushes any signs of hope with lyrics that point to the opposite. The lyrics are taken from the bible and talk of God's glory and our relation to that.
'Save Your Soul' is a short blast song written to toughen up our drummer!
'Life In Death' is a song about depression and suicidal thoughts that come from a life covered in negativity. I t talks about feeling out of control and full of regrets. The song finishes with hope of a new start from God and a cry to Him for healing, cleaning and forgiveness. The lyrics are a personal testimony of Jesus rescuing me from the heading that I chose to go on. Since I choose to follow him he has done a lot of cleaning up and healing in my life and will keep doing it!
The 2 new songs we're going release are from two opposite positions:
'Overcome (Victory in Christ)' is about the certainty that we can overcome everything that happens in this life if we follow Christ. It talks of looking forward to an eternity free from the power of death, pain, sin and the devil.
'Burning in Hell' is a slow and dark song with lyrics taken from the point of view of someone who has rejected God in this life and now is burning in hell with torment and pain. Hell is real and Jesus warns of it again and again. There is no room for compromise, we need to keep killing our old ways and the flesh, never giving up.
8) Is Paradox a live-band? What can you say about the live-scene in London, your country?
We do gigs very occasionally! At the moment we are getting ready with new material and making sure that when we do play it will be as good as possible. I want each show to be as special as possible and will use as many visual effects as we can think of to make the relevant point. Of course it will be pretty extreme! The live scene in London is pretty cool, there are normally a couple of the bigger bands playing each month and a lot more smaller gigs with the less known bands. I enjoy going to gigs, watching people perform and meeting and chatting to people. There are a lot of the same people at gigs so it's nice to go and build up friendships. I think it's similar in the rest of the country but on a smaller scale of course. So, yeah the scene's pretty healthy here.
9) Are there others Christian metal bands in your area? What kind of Christian are you? Evangelic, catholic, etc
I don't know of any other Christian bands in my area of London although my friend sings for an industrial rock band called 'Cyber X' . They do a few gigs and are working on new material. In the west of England are an excellent medieval doom band called 'Ashen Mortality' who have a couple of CD's out now. They are very heavy live with a great guitar sound. The church that I met the rest of the band at is quite unique in that it caters especially for 'alternative' people, ie metallers, goths, punks and hardcorers etc. We meet each Sunday in a rock pub in the west end of London and have a fairly laid back 'service'. The church was born from a club / outreach that has been telling the news of Christ to this group of people in this area for years. So there aren't many other Christian bands in my area but plenty of other like minded believers which is great.
I don't really label myself with denominations etc. I take what it means to be a Christian from the bible, not man made traditions that have been built up over the years. All these seem to do is cause hatred and war. If we believe in Jesus then we are all part of the same family and have the same Heavenly Father. When God sees the church it is one group of people, not many divisions. Of course there are many different parts but it's all from the same body.
10) I described your music as sick and desperate, but always with messages of hope the two voices (one growling and brutal, the other screaming and without hope) are a good way to explain these feelings .
Thank you for the compliment! The two voices weren't designed specifically to show these two different sides but if they do then great! I want to keep the vocals as extreme and emotional as possible, whether through screams or cries. They must match and push the feelings we want to create through the rest of the music and lyrics. If the lyrics are very dark and hopeless then the singing must match. It must be a whole, complete with each part complimenting the others.
11) Do you believe in church dogmas?
Yeah, if they are in line with what the bible says. If they are man made and spiritually dead religious ceremonies made up later to control people or for human gain, then no!
Religious people doing things apparently in the name of God have done more harm than good. In religious institutions there can often be a low tolerance of anyone 'different' who doesn't behave or look how that institution requires. Of course this will include many of those into metal. God hates this more than the people who are outcast by it. When Jesus was in Israel he shunned many of the religious leaders of the day and chose instead to hang out with the outcasts of society, accepting all who came to him. It was the religious leaders of the day who orchestrated Jesus' death because of the way he undermined their power and spoke against their hypocrisy. Little did they know that this was part of God's plan to bring people into his kingdom.
12) Why at the end of the demo Cd do you add a little piece of melodic church chorus? Perhaps its meaning is the arrival of light after all desperation???
You're right mate, I put the outro on the CD as an antidote to the rest of it and it's oppressive atmosphere. The arrival of light after all the desperation. I love that piece of music and was at the meeting where it was recorded. At the meeting I felt such a peace from God and was baptised by the Spirit later that week after singing some similar songs. I hope that those listening can also experience that peace from God in some measure and see that amongst all the black there is hope. There is nothing more fulfilling than being in God's presence and sitting at his feet, nothing else is important or can come close to being with Him. It is completeness and will be eternally fulfilled in Heaven.
13) Now, can you speak deeply about your other project, the Christian newsletter Fangs of life, and all the other activities of your Tarantula Promotions?
'Fangs of Life' is the name of a very irregular newsletter I do whenever I get around to it! It consists of a few different sections: some personal news, stuff on my strange pet collection, Christian extreme music news, some reviews of albums I've got and anything else I want to mention. There's no particular reason to do it, though maybe to try to make things more personal and for people to get to know me. Also to let people know that there are many bands around that have positive lyrics and the scene is far from rubbish or dead as many like to think. This is also the main reason behind the next Tarantula Promotions release which will be a sampler / compilation with the two new Paradox tracks as well as material by other artists who play black and death metal. The Paradox release is called 'Overcome or burn in hell...' with the rest of the songs coming under the title of the 'Arachnid Terror sampler'. This should be out early 2002. Apart from this Tarantula Promotions solely exists to promote Paradox material so nothing else is planned after this release. God might have different plans though so we'll wait and see. I'll probably mail out the next 'Fangs of Life' with the new release as well, just gotta get round to writing it!
14) What is the meaning of the Tarantula??
I have kept 'pet' tarantulas and scorpions for the last few years. For some they are the substance of nightmares but for me they are fascinating. I guess most people find them interesting even if it is to hate them! So that's where the name came from. Creatures created by God, complex and amazing.
15) Hello hails to HOLY STEEL readers
Thanks again for this interview Leo. Hope it wasn't too long. People can feel free to get in touch with us if they want to chat about anything I've said or get hold of a copy of the next release. No problem. Never put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. You may never get a chance to do it again. Run to Christ, his arms are open wide.
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