Krieg – “Personal Darkness and Negativity”

Thursday, 28th August 2014

Krieg is a name that probably pops up fairly quickly when discussing the big US black metal bands. Having existed in the scene for close to 20 years at this point, Krieg has watched bands come and go, and the scene itself be altered and changed over the years. The band’s most recent effort, Transient, continues the long-standing tradition of bleak and spiteful black metal. What’s most interesting about it though, is how it shifts dynamics and mood while maintaining a dark and sinister vibe.

Mastermind Neill Jameson (aka Imperial) is a man of many hats. Not only has he kept Krieg afloat, he was also in the recently departed “supergroup” Twilight, and runs two record stores. Given the opportunity to interview Neill, it only seemed fair to discuss all of these things to get a more well rounded picture of the man himself.

Dead Rhetoric: You are from New Jersey, not exactly the first place that brings black metal to mind. Was there anything geographical that led to the black metal direction of Krieg?

Neill Jameson: Really the only thing I could think of here is that I first heard black metal through the local college radio station in the early 90’s which I guess could be geographical but that’s more circumstantial than anything. There was also a zine that was published locally around the same time which introduced me to a lot of underground metal at the time.

Dead Rhetoric: Krieg has released a number of splits/EPs this year. What is the greatest benefit of these smaller releases for a more renowned band?

Jameson: You’d have to ask a renowned band for that. I just find considerable value in working with bands I respect for a split and I’ve found a lot of the smaller labels put incredible energy into doing things for their releases simply because they run a label out of love and not out of trying to put food on their tables.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you approach the material of an EP/split differently than you do a full-length effort?

Jameson: Somewhat. Because there’s limited space I prefer to try to be more focused and direct in whatever the emotion or idea I wish to convey. This has worked out to varying degrees of success and failure for me but in a sense it also presents an interesting challenge versus working on a full length.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you want people to walk away with once they’ve listened to Transient?

Jameson: That’s a difficult question. This record has a lot of different meanings for me and because of that I don’t know if I really have one thing I want people to come away with. Honestly as long as they come away with anything at all from it then that’s a success for me.

Dead Rhetoric: One of the highlights of Transient was “Home,” for the sheer bleakness of the track. The last line, “there are no more homes anymore, just rooms without end” seems particularly poignant. Do you feel that we as a society have become more isolated due to our own self-involvement?

Jameson: “Home” was meant to show two signs of the same coin, the first half meant to show the more aggressive and disdainful side whereas the second passage which you referenced was the more detached and lonely side. There are two ways to look at this as a whole, the first being that it was autobiographical and possibly one of the most open and honest pieces of writing I’ve ever done.

The other way to look at it is that it stands as a more far reaching idea and this is where your question comes into play: the answer is yes. No one has any conversations anymore, no one gets to know each other naturally anymore. Have you gone out to eat recently? You’ll notice couples or groups of friends don’t even talk or laugh anymore because they’re so involved in their phones, their own little worlds. It’s the new reality, that the idea of the tangible world has no value unless through the lenses of a phone camera. It’s disgusting. As someone who is naturally introverted it’s almost like watching my surroundings become a disgusting parody, a satire of how it feels to be inside yourself. But these people chose it and that’s just fucking baffling.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been diagnosed as depressed and taken medication for it. How does this part of you play into the sound of Krieg?

Jameson: The last album The Isolationist is the perfect example of it because I was on some fairly heavy medication for bi polar disorder when we wrote and recorded it and listening to it now it sounds cold, detached, uncomfortable. I don’t even know that person anymore besides memories and distant touches of emotion. I’ve been off medication now for almost four years, and off self-medication for around three. Mostly because I did not have health insurance and in order to afford that sort of drug you either need to be independently wealthy or have good coverage. Neither applied. So the first year was difficult and I turned to drugs and alcohol and my productivity musically went to shit and then due to uncontrollable circumstances unrelated to my own health I became homeless for awhile. Then slowly I started digging myself out of the dirt, little by little.

By 2012 I was formulating what would become my full time lineup and, after the owner of Grave Dancer Records told people I was “industry poison” and would never be able to release a record again, I began the push which leads us to here and this question. Transient is a much more anger fueled record, a more emotional and “human” record than anything I’ve done in awhile. That’s a direct response to over a decade on medication and the eventual effects it had on my life.

Dead Rhetoric: The final Twilight album was released earlier this year. How do you feel now that it’s done? Is there any regret now that a short amount of time has passed or was it just the right time to end things?

Jameson: Twilight’s end was just an operation to remove a tumor. With the tumor removed and the body’s healing process in full swing I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw some of us back together in a new formation in one way or the other. Twilight itself was an interesting experience but the last few years of it were completely overshadowed by one rotten apple that a lot of people are still taking bites out of and wondering why they’re sick.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the American black metal scene has changed over the years?

Jameson: Initially it was incredibly raw and had a natural aggression which was unmatched through a lot of the world. We weren’t sophisticated in the slightest. We all said a lot of bone headed shit. We drank a lot. Then about twelve years ago it started to change, new bands, new people, new ideas. New scapegoats. Opportunities we never had before. A more cerebral approach. This opened the door for tourists and now a lot of them decided they liked the place so much they wanted to move in. Genre lines blurred. Now it’s become a hodgepodge of philosophies, sounds, ideas with a huge focus on people attacking other bands for their perceived beliefs and pandering to the new generation of tourists who have no idea why they’re even visiting in the first place.

Dead Rhetoric: As a long-standing purveyor of black metal, what does the black metal ethos mean to you at this point?

Jameson: Same as it always was: personal darkness and negativity.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also become known due to your writings (Twitter, Decibel) about record stores. Despite the annoyances, it seems you have a genuine love of record stores and that side of the industry. Do you ever feel this contrasts from the desolate outlook of Krieg?

Jameson: I obviously love music or I wouldn’t be involved in any of this. Record stores have always been destinations for me when I travel or tour and I will continue to prefer to get my music in this manner. Also a lot of what I tend to write in regards to this or other daily observations is heavily seasoned with comedy, albeit mostly gallows humor, and I can see that some people would have a difficult time thinking what I’m doing with that style of writing versus what I do with Krieg or any of the projects musically I am involved with could come from the same person but almost everyone has different sides to them and I’m interested in exploring all of mine otherwise life becomes stagnant and fucking boring and there’s enough boring people out there.

Dead Rhetoric: Other than the obvious, how do you feel that the Internet has affected brick and mortar record stores?

Jameson: Internet commerce overall has impacted retail, especially independent retail, in an aggressively negative fashion that doesn’t get nearly the media attention that some small town trying to set their local Wal Mart on fire would get five years ago. People don’t go out for things anymore, they sit at home and wait for shit to come to them because they’re afraid to leave the house and experience things. Or they’re fucking lazy.

But a lot of stores, mine included, adapted and incorporated Amazon, eBay or Discogs into their business model which in turn transforms the stores into open market warehouses and that helps keep us not only afloat but also successful. But still you hear about stores that are considered institutions closing their gates every day so it’s probably inevitable that consumers who just want to sit on their ass all day and have things brought to them will win in the end. Jesus Christ, no wonder the rest of the world hates us.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for Krieg in 2014?

Jameson: We’re working on setting up shows and hopefully getting back out to the west coast later in the fall. The tenth anniversary vinyl and cassette versions of The Black House will be released on Foreign Sounds and Sol Y Nieve respectively. We’ll be on the new Anthrosphere compilation in the fall as well. Planning on splits and something special for next year’s twentieth anniversary of the band. So I’m attempting to stay busy and keep the momentum of the last few years going strong.

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