Schammasch – “A Significant Mark in the Development of the Mind”Monday, 15th September 2014
Swiss metallers Schammasch develop deeply contemplative music that ventures into the mind, outlines wisdom and urges understanding. They “guess” that they “can live” with being categorized as avant-garde black metal but all who have actually listened to Schammasch knows their music goes beyond words. Their latest album, Contradiction, will cast you into silence and have you speechless in awe as it rouses your curiosity and draws inquisitive interest.
Basically, everything that one won’t discover for oneself by experiencing Contradiction can be found here in this interview with Schammasch’s guitarist, Chris S.R. Take a glimpse inside one of the eclectic and clever masterminds behind the music, Dead Rhetoric did. Maybe we drove them to the brink of insanity with some of these questions but sometimes lucidity is in order, especially when we discover brilliant work like theirs. It alters senses of dark and light, as well as of sound and silence.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Schammasch’s music genre, type and/or style?
Chris S.R.: I can live with avantgarde black metal I guess, since this is a pretty wide-ranging term. But I really don’t care at the end of the day. We got our roots in black metal, but nowadays it is just deep, dark & complex music to me.
Dead Rhetoric: The contrast between perpetually dark and spiritually uplifting sounds of your music is exquisite, and the length and musical variation of the songs is quite enchanting. Your latest album, Contradiction, seems to confront a cosmic abyss through music. What inspires or influences the creation of your songs? What do you visualize when making music, e.g. writing riffs and developing atmospheres?
Chris S.R.: I mostly just let flow what feels right when it comes to riff-writing, without thinking about it too much. Many aspects besides the riffs and song structures, like conceptual parts, lyrical themes, soundscape ideas etc., suddenly emerge out of the unconscious, inspired through all kinds of things. Literature, art and personal developmental experiences are big parts of those inspirations. And other music of course.
Dead Rhetoric: Once an album like Contradiction is finished, what do you see in your creation?
Chris S.R.: I see every album as a taken step on the progression ladder and a lesson learned.
Dead Rhetoric: Contradiction is, as the title suggests, full of contradictions; the songs are perplexing and mystifying with all the mirrored imagery and lyrical adversaries, somewhat two-faced in ways. What are some of the contradictory ideas, philosophies and beliefs you intentionally put into the album?
Chris S.R.: The essence of the album lies in the fact that nothing is final. There is no such thing as secureness. Everything is in constant movement and change, the lesson is to accept it as it is, and also to utilize it. To not see it as something that needs to be resisted. It’s a significant mark in the development of the mind.
Dead Rhetoric: Contradiction’s song meanings are clear in focus yet obscure with mystery. The covertly structured lyrics make an enticing yet somewhat viscous task for listeners to interpret the intended meanings. For instance, religious themes like God and heaven, as well as spirituality and afterlife, life and death, and so on. Take this verse from “JHWH”: “He who calls himself the creator… I have created you therefore I shall do with you what I will… I will make you suffer.” And jumping to a verse from “Serpent Silence”: “We will never reach heaven so I tear God apart within me. And we may never see the sun again.” In accordance to the lyrics and themes of Contradiction, what are some of your thoughts and viewpoints on religion, e.g. God, heaven and hell?
Chris S.R.: Religious archives, unspecified, are full of treasures in terms of training spirit and mind. That’s how I look at them. As tools which can be of very good use for developing the higher self. But again, I can’t see all these things in a final state (as dogmas), one can only see them in parallel to one’s state of being, means they change as the mind/live changes. Therefore the conclusion can only be to use them as long as they ARE useful in terms of development, and not as rulebook for living.
“God” is only a word, with an infinite number of meanings, and so is “Hell.” Words are liquid.
Dead Rhetoric: “Serpent Silence” lays out quite an esoteric examination of silence, contradicting itself by doing so. Considering lyric examples: “Nothing is stranger to men than silence” and “Praising silence as the last remaining joy,” what are your thoughts/theories on the relationship between men and silence? What about the relationship of men and music?
(Extra side question relative to the above question) Correct me if I am wrong, but would Max Picard happen to be an inspiration for Schammasch? A quote of his: “Music is silence, which in dreaming begins to sound” – M.P. Also, in your own words, could you define the sound of silence?
Chris S.R.: Silence is one of the biggest joys and highest necessities to me. It nourishes the mind. There’s so much human noise out there which numbs the relationship between men and silence so deeply, culminating in people seeming to look at it as a pain. Which is fatal in my opinion.
“Serpent Silence” can be seen as a hymn to silence, not only physically but also spiritually.
The relationship between men and music… “Ohne Musik wäre das Leben ein Irrtum.” –Friedrich Nietzsche. I don’t care if it’s cliché.
To be honest, I’ve never heard of Max Picard, even if he was Swiss. But I will definitely check it out. Sounds interesting.
Defining the sound of silence? Just listen to it.
Dead Rhetoric: As noted on the Facebook page, the Sun and the Moon are significant influences for the band. What does the Sun and Moon offer you in terms of inspiration, motive and/or spirituality?
Chris S.R.: Together, they’re symbols for the duality in all things, simple as that. The Sun is also the direct symbol for everything the band stands for.
Dead Rhetoric: By now many of us know that the artwork for Contradiction was initially designed for Behemoth. How did you get the opportunity to acquire the image for Contradiction? Between the snakes and mirrored images, the art fits flawlessly with the music; was that all coincidence?
Chris S.R.: We didn’t know in first place. The designer made a whole different blueprint first, but got a bit lost at some point. He even wanted to quit the job due to lack of inspiration, but I’ve managed to motivate him enough to go on. So he came up with that mirrored demon avatar (in different color with different background back then) and I’ve freaked, because it was so perfect. He then told me he initially did it for Behemoth, but we didn’t care. I never was so damn convinced about any artwork stuff we got so far, and I still love to explore it again and again. There’s so much to discover, and I can think of no other visual artwork fitting the album more accurately.
Dead Rhetoric: Explain the significance behind the band’s attention-grabbing press photos. Generally speaking, black metal musicians often pose for photos looking bitter and angry while having their fists clenched or giving the horns sign. Schammasch, however, have an exceptional way of evoking a different kind of darkened mood using certain poses and ambiance. Looking at a few of these photos, we see all four of you standing together in a temple and looking upwards with forsaken looks upon your faces, hands either laid to the side or clasped together as if in prayer. What’s the significance and purpose behind all that we see there?
Chris S.R.: Our music deals with insight, progression and illumination, so this is of course what we also aim to present visually. I think there’s no need to explain it any further. But we’re obviously not the only band which experiments with such things nowadays (fortunately). The true grim frostbitten days have passed, along with the 90s.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say sets Schammasch apart from other bands?
Chris S.R: We do not restrict our work as much as most bands do. Which is no judgment by the way, of course artistic restriction can be very important in various ways. We just try to use it in a more unusual way.
Dead Rhetoric: What is foreseen in Schammasch’s future?
Chris S.R: We’ll be on the road with Secrets of the Moon and Dark Fortress in Europe soon, and there may follow some significant festival shows for next year. Also we’re working hard on the third album at the moment, which will be recorded next summer presumably. It develops very well so far and I’m already pretty excited about how the end result will turn out, ‘cause it will be somehow a quite risky experiment.
Dead Rhetoric: Thank you for the interview. Cheers to all! Any last comments?
Chris S.R: Thanks for the interview. LVX