< PARADOX INTERVIEW WITH P'TAHK
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INTERVIEW WITH P'TAHK ZINE (UK), JULY 2001

Interview was between John Tarantula and Steve Russell. Contact Steve at: doogz@ptahk.fsnet.co.uk for details of how to get the zine. Thanks to Steve for his time, support and a fun interview!

 

1) How did Paradox come into existence?

I guess it was an 'act of God' as they say in the insurance things! In a bit more detail though it started when i became a Christian. Before this i was mucking around with my friends in a band doing covers of people like Burzum, Darkthrone, Acheron, Beherit, Havohej etc. After I became a Christian these friends either went away to study or drifted away. I then joined with my dad (bass) and brother (drums), who were already writing their own stuff and thought we might as well have a go at writing original material as the stuff we were covering wasn't exactly mindblowingly difficult. If those bands could do it them we could at least try! Also people back then were more interested in the atmosphere created not the technical ability. I guess this changed with Emperor though there are of course those who still prefer the rougher and darker black metal bands. Since then we have done a couple of demos and gained / swapped a few musicians around but hopefully improved! We plan to record again by the end of this year with our newest and supposedely best songs, though I know they all say that!

2) When someone says "Christian Metal", images immediatly spring to mind of Stryper and an abundance of God-awful (excuse the pun/blasphemy) big hair bands. Have you found this stereotyping to be an obstacle when getting your music across to people?

I don't really know many Christian big hair bands so it doesn't spring to my mind. The first Christian stuff i heard was Vengeance Rising and Believer (thrash), but a lot of it was not as good as the secular bands. The scene is catching up now and there are now many bands that are better than those in the secular scene. I have sent demos to many different people to review but then some never get back to us! Not sure if it is because of the lyrics, just bad music on our behalf or them no longer doing their thing! Your guess is as good as mine. But i guess it could be a combination of them all. It does make me smile though how a lot of people moan about censorship and people not accepting their views then do exactly when they effectively censor those with Christian lyrics. That's up to them though, I love what we're doing and there is a great sense of satisfaction when you get something finished, so we'll carry on regardless of what others think. If one person likes us and thinks about what we're singing about then it is worth it. Of course there will always be those who don't like us but who cares. We don't have time to worry about it. I believe God will use what we do to accomplish his purpose so nothing we do for him is wasted. So basically it's all cool! we don't have big hair either, just funny coloured beards!

3) So are you going against the grain, as it were? Could it be a possibility that the devil doesn't have the best tunes?

I suppose we are going against the grain although we weren't the first and i guess we won't be the last either. I think it is a definite possibility that the devil doesn't have all the best tunes, of course he 'has' a lot of good ones but not all of them! There are many very good bands in the Christian underground but people seldom hear of them, often due to the exclusion by those i was talking about earlier, which i can understand. If i were a satanist i wouldn't want to help someone who held the opposite views to me. Hopefully though we can make a difference in getting more exposure for good Christian bands in this country. We plan to do a comp Cd along with a zine so people can read and hear those bands others won't mention. I also want to start chasing the Christian labels and bands to start sending stuff over here for review and promotion as many of them can be a bit slow at promotion and actually doing something to get known. People can't hear of stuff if they're not sent it! There is a whole undiscovered underground scene out there covering all continents and all styles. The underground of the underground if you like.

4) The music is very mournful in its nature, and your lyrics tend to shy away from the preachy side of things usually associated with any form of religious commentary. Explain?

Religious commentary? I ain't religious matey! Religion is man made rules and regulations that suffocate people and puts burdens on them they often can't cope with or fulfil. Jesus came to get rid of the religion of the day and still gets rid of the religion around today. Christianity should be centred on a relationship with God, made possible through Jesus' death. God saves us from hell and we live a life in response to this, not to earn it. We can never do enough to save ourselves from hell, as a lot of people will preach. We just need to accept Jesus' gift. Hopefully the lyrics reflect my relationship with Christ, with all it's ups and downs. Two of the songs are about myself and my own experiences, one about struggling with drugs and the other about depression. I guess we just want to be real with people and show then that there is a way out if they want it. Preaching 'fire and brimstone' is what makes a lot of those into metal run from the church. They have been shown no love, just condemnation and rejection for what they are. A lot of churches only want people when they are alright, not hurting or in a mess, when Jesus was the opposite, going to the outcasts and meeting them where they were. On the new stuff the lyrics are a bit more direct, though I personally feel the simple 'turn or burn' message is not that effective for metalheads. Also many people would be surprised if they read the bible as to the actual content of it. There is a lot of dark stuff in it that is not direct preaching. Many Psalms are pretty depressing and Job is a book about the feelings of a man who looses absolutely everything. So, I'm not really shying away as we will never water down lyrics to please people, I just feel there are many different ways to say the same message clearly. People need understanding not judgement. As for mournful music, thank you very much! That's what I like a lot and want to keep creating. There's nothing like some slow, heavy and dark music to bring a smile to my face. You can't beat it :)

5) So are you coming from an "Anathema" perspective or an "Eyehategod" way musically, as both bands have a history in slow, dark music (as well as both names meaning "anti-God, sorry, couldn't resist it! :-).

Erm, not sure as Ive never heard any Eyehategod, though Ive seen plenty of their t-shirts... I like Anathema'a music a lot, but only owned the Serenades LP, the newer stuff being a bit overblown from what i can remember. Musically the stuff that influences me for Paradox is the stuff I used to listen to before i became a Christian. Records like Cathedral - "Forest..", Autopsy - "Mental Funeral, Unholy - "2nd ring...", Beherit - "Drawing Down...", Winter - "Into Darkness", MDB - most of it, Havohej, Abruptum, vocals on Burzum. I guess the list could go on for longer but you get the general idea... 95% of stuff i own now is Christian and two of my favourite discs are Paramaecium "Exhumed of the earth" and Mental Destruction "Straw" which is very extreme industrial stuff on Cold Meat Industry. Didn't think Anathema meant anti - god, thought it was a kind of like a death knell, like a lack of rain would be an anathema to those who were dying of thirst. Maybe I'm confused or misinformed. Blame it on the government!

6) I've got a Havohej record somewhere- Dethrone The Son Of God. It's awful! I remember the artwork being a tad dodgy too- what were Candlelight thinking? Your earlier musical preferences tend too stray towards the dark side- how did you "find God" as it were? He wasn't down the back of the sofa was he?

I thought Havohej was pretty cool. harsh with pretty sick vocals. Not particularly polished or melodic but extreme all the same. I don't go too much for melody, unless it's pretty dark. the atmosphere is more important for me, though of course you do need stuff that sticks in peoples minds. yeah the artwork was full-on cheese, some bloke in a field with paint and blood but i guess that was what it was about at the time. I guess God found me rather than me looking for him. Didn't look down the back of my sofa so maybe if i did i would have found him. Becoming a Christian was the last thing i expected when i did. I went on a summer camp run by a church group where you did activities and meet people and have bible teaching stuff. We got into them through a youth club in our area run in the local church. From this they took some of us to these camps in Somerset where we used to go and meet girls and get stoned. We also took fun in ignoring the bible stuff and winding our leaders up. Anyway i went on the camp for that year (1995) for a free holiday anmd some fun. At the time i was pretty full on into the satanic music culture, drugs and horror / snuff films so i was pretty miserable and hostile, which is exactly how i wanted to be. I didn't think much of christians as they always seemed happy and stuck up, unaware of pain or darkness. Well, something clicked that year, which looking back i guess was God. I got away from everything that i used to fill my mind with negativity and saw things in a slightly different light. I realised that the path i was on was not gonna give me any happiness. Satan was a master who would not give me any reward. i would get to the end and he would laugh in my face. I got fed up of the black cloud that was weighing me down and wanted to feel free and at peace, have a lightness that i saw in the Christians around me. They seemed to have a permanent smile and inner peace. So i decided to give my life to Christ and live in his presence. I did it and cried for the first time in years. I could start over and all the rubbish i had got into no longer had a hold on me. I was new and fresh, just me and God, nothing else mattered. It felt and still feels really good. When i got home from the camp i got rid of all the music / films and weapons i had collected as i no longer needed them and knew that they would drag me back to running away from God sooner or later. This was most of the stuff that was me, what i was when people looked at me, but not any more. Since then it has been a struggle and always will be until death. If we didn't struggle then it's time to start worrying! Like i said earlier it's not what we do though, we have to rely totally on God's goodness, not our own merit or deeds. Get this in perspective and the rest follows. It's not an excuse to do what we want though. God's not that stupid! Well, hope that wasn't too long.

7) Too long? Duse, I forwarded it to Penguin for them to publish as a three part novel! You always seem like a very cheery fellow when I meet you, and indeed through your answers in this interview, so what makes the music so dark and depressing?

It wasn't that long, you wanna see me when i get going...Anyway in answer to the question i guess the music is what it is because we like that stuff and we want to play it. I hate happy sounding extreme metal, if you're gonna do that you might as well play indie pop. Metal is dark and depressing, the image, the feeling, the whole atsmosphere. It is the perfect refuge when you're feeling down, allowing you to express your emotions and channel them into sound. Even when you're not down it can take you for a ride, lifting you away to another place. Metal is best played at a loud volume in the dark. Of course i like other styles of metal, fast aggresive stuff is very good live and when you want to drive fast. I'm even getting into some power metal lately but don't tell anyone. I like singing along to the chorus'. I guess we concentrate on our style because we want to try and be good at it and develop our own sound with different ideas, though it's impossible to be original . I guess I am cheery but i do have my non cheery moments as well...Ask some of my friends!

8) I assume your name was chosen for the very reason that you have a Christian band playing very dark music? I have another paradox for you- why is it that us metalheads are so happy when listening to a depressing aggressive racket?

Yes your assumption was correct dear chappy. cool. I don't know why us metallers are happy listening to depressing music, but for some reason we just are. Maybe it's in the genes or we've programmed ourselves. It could be a brain implant by the secret metal underground policeman to ensure the survival of the race. Maybe we get a sense of satisfaction that most 'normal' people find it too extreme and it makes them feel annoyed just like their pop music does to us - revenge! hehe. Maybe we are happy that we can hide and wallow in depressive music! Who knows! What do you think?

9) I try not to think... it hurts too much! Maybe we're all just messed up lunatics that are put on this planet to give the boring everyday faceless nobodies something to talk about! I also think Steps should cover a Decomposed song...ARRRGGGHHH, THE PAIN AGAIN!!! Wouldn't that be cool? Is it a plus or minus (or both) having a piss-head metal thrashing mad lunatic like Grey in the band?

hehe - what a question! in answer i love it! Grey doesn't mind what we sing about and doesn't really get involved in the politics of things as he's got enough to do himself with Kentucky Fried Afterbirth. We have lots of fun when we go to practice and share the same musical vision for the band - to be the ugliest and most depressing sounding band in existence. Also, we seem to get more acceptence when people know Grey's in the band, although he does get grief off some people I think, but is not really bothered. Like I said we have fun and all enjoy what we do so its cool.

10) Well, with Grey you're certainly the ugliest! (Just kidding dude, I know you're reading this and using photos of me as a dartboard!) One more thing about the whole "Christian" thing- you've put across in this interview that for you it's a personal thing rather than the whole "go to church, repent" yadda yadda dogma, but yet you still choose to label yourself a Christian. Why do people label themselves "Christian", "Satanist", "Jew", whatever? What's wrong with just doing you're own thing regardless of what other people call it? I get people saying that I live a Satanist way of life, but I just see it as looking after myself rather than what some geek wants to pigeonhole it as.

If I could play darts then maybe - I'm more likely to make contact if we had your photo on a ten pin bowling skittle! I don't really know how I come across so if that's how I do then fair enough! Yeah Christianity is very personal for me as well as being something that I want to share with everyone - another paradox! I have nothing against churches, though in the strict sense of the word 'church' means a group of Christians, not an old building! A church can meet anywhere. The church I go to and enjoy lots meets in the upstairs room of a pub. The early church of the bible met in peoples houses. It's just through time and tradition that people have come to think (and teach) that God lives in a building, ie a 'church.' Superstitious rubbish mate! I have nothing against repenting either! Of course people need to repent to be made right with God. I don't mind saying this but you can't force people to do it. Only when people realise (maybe with God's help) that they need to turn from things that will eventually destroy them are they ready to repent. Without this, 'repenting' often doesn't last long as people soon go back to their old ways. I guess many Christians have given other Christians a bad name, but then again not all those who label themselves as Christians know or love God, which is what it really comes down to. That's what I mean when I label my self as a Christian, someone who tries to love God. None of us are perfect either! I guess the stereotypes of Christians is not really positive and in the media and music people only portray Christians as boring, judgmental people who have no love. Like I said earlier there are some who call themselves Christians who are like that but there are also many who are not! Hopefully in time only those who are full of God's love will call themselves Christians as it becomes less acceptable to do so now just for the sake of it. Only the hardcore will remain and they will be far more effective than the bigger, less serious mass that are around at the moment. In God's will though! Our new lyrics will be a bit more direct, one song called 'Burning in hell' is taken from the point of view of someone in hell who has no way out. Another is called 'Brainwashed' and is a response to those who accuse Christians of being brainwashed yet themselves believe in things that they haven't looked at properly and have far less evidence than the facts of the bible. I don't know why people label everything including music and faith. Maybe to make it easier than explaining each time what you mean! It can be bad though as I mentioned earlier with some people using a label and giving the rest of that group a bad name. God doesn't really mind what people label themselves as, He's just worried about whether they know Him or not. I guess people feel safer if they can label and explain things? Whatever, it doesn't really bother me...

11) Well, that's all folks. Thanx for your honest and informative answers to my probing questions, I guess it's given a few people a new perspective on the term "Christian Metal". Feel free to use up any remaining space you think I might have by giving yourself a plug (not that kind of "plug" you dirty bugger).

Well mate thanks to you too for giving us some space in your zine. Ive enjoyed our little chat and the questions have been fun to answer. Hopefully they've been fun for whoever's reading them as well. As for plugs, well it'd be surprising if you have any space left after the length of the last answer But anyway here we go...if you like the sound of us then get in touch and we'll let you know when new stuff is recorded. If you just want to chat about what I've been saying find me at a London gig or drop me an email. We hope to do some gigs once we're ready at the end of the year so you can check us out then as well. We're also starting a distro to sell decent extreme music with Christian lyrics so check it out at http://paradoxuk.tripod.com/dist.html. Plug over.


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