Twisted, spontaneously aggressive and other times in the form of melancholic psychedelia. There might not be a mood for transcendental black metal music of Liturgy every time, but sometimes, especially in a bit challenging periods, this sort extreme and unpredictable world, seems as a perfect choice. I don’t watch horror movies. Many of them are predictable, I don’t enjoy watching them and eventually my subconsciousness takes the most terrifying elements, multiplies them by a hundred and projects it for me in a shape of occasional, but intensive nightmare. Therefore, I like to take a glimpse at somebody else’s nightmares and their most challenging life phases. With its intensity, it beats personal frustrations, many worthless assumptions and through an honest discussion, there might be a few epiphanies on both sides. We mainly spoke the new double album 93696, which was written, when the main figure, a guitarist and singer Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix, was going through a sex change. Next to it, we spoke about also a passion for orchestra music, interesting philosophical thoughts and the people who are closest supports for her. 2023 EU tour will also include Prague’s venue Underdogs’ Ballroom on 23rd of September.
Interview came out also in Czech in March 2023 issue of magazine Full Moon.
Photos credit: Alexander Perrelli & Jessica Hallock
How were the past few years for you personally and artistically? I went through your complete discography and happy to see strong creative drive with 2022 EP – As the Blood of God Bursts the Veins of Time and the new double album 93696.
It’s been a significant few years for everyone probably. For me, there was a lot of free time in 2020 which made writing a record as complex as 93696 possible. We had band practice several times a week and despite the circumstances that was really nice. Since then I’ve been showing more visual art and finally got to start touring again during the second half of last year.
What were some of the best and the worst aspects of the society you witnessed during the past few years? I saw some incredible support for the neighbors and old people, however at the same time uncompromising life/death rage, if there is a disagreement in aspects including vaccination or war.
Yeah it’s strange, in a certain way humanity seems to have a sense of community that it never did before, because everything going on is so strange and civilization seems so fragile. But of course there’s so much hate now too, not to mention injustice. The hatred towards trans people is especially alarming.
Create Your Own Heaven
How were these observations reflected in your latest work, both including music and your other art activities?
It’s apocalyptic art for an apocalyptic time. Liturgy has always had a lot of sublime pathos, and the world seems to be growing more and more appropriate to it.
Give us please an idea about the process of the creation of the new album. This album carries many signature elements of Liturgy, at the same time you recorded on tape to provide a very raw sound, but at the same time, you expanded the spectrum with orchestrations and children’s choir.
I always write the music all on my own, notating some of it and making demos of the other parts. Then we work through the material as a band and it tends to evolve a little at that stage. For this record we then recorded the band, before I wrote any additional arrangements. That was at the end of 2020. Then I spent 2021 with arrangements and mixing, though some of that material has already been composed.
The hatred towards trans people is especially alarming.
I wouldn’t dare to get into talks about theology and philosophy, as they are not my fields. Only from a real-life common knowledge anthropological point of view. Therefore topics, I would like to discuss further would be a bit different. Therefore, from a theological and philosophical point of view, what were the main messages you wanted to share on the latest double album?
I wanted the album to sound like heaven and to create thirst and hope for its realization in our lifetimes. The philosophy can be connected to that or separate from it. I have specific ideas about what heaven will or could be like, in the eschatology of my philosophy. The basic idea is it’s a world where everyone is striving to grow as an artist and as a human being, and much more of life revolves around that then it does in our current world.
After going through your complete discography, I feel the biggest amount of balance on the latest double album. Naturally, it is a certain phase of continual musical progress, but at the same time I feel a strong inner balance supported by the 93696 concept including heaven and a new eon for civilization. Is the music and art in general still an ideal way for you to release all emotions and how do you place your internal setting into an adequate balance to have courage to share all of your thoughts?
Thank you, yeah I feel like there is balance in the music here and in connection with the art and philosophy elements. In a lot of ways this era for the band is about refining and perfecting things rather than breaking new ground, which I was more interested in until now. I just want to create a system of sounds, ideas and images that all hangs together as a heavenly world.
The Right Sound
What you do in a moment of insecurity? More I am into my own activities (Music journalism, teaching Serbian & English, music presentations around Czech Republic, including organizations for visually handicapped), I am happy with my path and the direction/decision making is clearer. However, sometimes I reach a point, where I at the crossroad at 95% and I need an advice. Who is your support in those cases?
I have a lot of support, friends, spiritual advisors and a therapist I like a lot. More and more I try to focus on prayer too and try it listen for messages from God. Sometimes it feels like I can hear them, but I’m never sure. I’m often very unsure of what to do, so I need a lot of help!
Next to a few personalities in my life, I found an evening/morning meditation useful to be more balanced and rely on my true self and improving my instinct. Simply feel right about decisions which can be felt down to my core. What are your tools?
Yeah meditating is big for me, also ritual and verbal prayer as well as yoga. These tools count for so much. Playing music also gives me powerful perspective on things.
Next to above mentioned, a number of artists within heavy music are extremely helpful for me, even though it might be considered as “torture of yourself” to a certain extend. However your music and bands as Cult of Luna, Amenra and Oathbreaker, with the insane heaviness calm me down. It has an effect of getting me both outside of my comfort zone and it covers my surrounding in a grey bubble, where I can digest the heaviness, think about past experiences, but feel comfortable and safe at the same time, as I can control it to some extent. What is the effect of heavy music on you?
I don’t listen to very much music these days, but historically it’s been similar to what you describe, an encounter with reality and intensity that helps me remember how much everything matters.
I have a strong memory with your music. In the late spring last year, I was going through a rough period projects and relationships-wise. I needed to get out of the city. I wanted to go far and maybe check some band I like. I went to Slovakia and to check great post-punk band Sinks. I went to Tatras Mountains. Leftovers of snow, nobody around and a lot of music and thoughts. I think your music was recommended to me by Zeal & Ardor. I checked your album Origin of the Alimonies and I got almost totally lost listening to it. I had to go off the track, to an alternative one because of the heavy snow. The alternative root was quite challenging and it was raining. I was going through a big layer of snow. I reached a point, when I almost fell over a frozen waterfall. Afterwards I took a break, connected my phone to an external charger, checked an approximate direction of my path, as the signal was really bad and the tracker stopped working and went further. Rough terrain, big snow and wet hiking shoes. I followed footsteps that was in the snow, but at one point I decided to leave it, as it would turn badly. I already felt quite desperate, but I needed to find a small well, which was on the map. From what seemed reasonable, I went my way and climbed up through a fallen tree. Origin of the Alimonies still in my headphones. When I finally found a man-made small well, I was saved. Then a couple of hundreds of meters later, I came across a massive ice wall – The Game Of Thrones vibe – I started laughing. It was insane to climb it, but I managed. About a dozen of kilometers further back to a civilization, but I went through the worst. Your music gave it the right challenging atmosphere. Afterwards some Cult of Luna and Oathbraker. Later on, I was so glad, I went through it all. The whole experience was a great tool to get me outside of my comfort zone. What do you do to get out of your comfort zone?
Wow what a story! I have no comment other than that, seems like you’ve said it all haha.
Ending of the track 36 seems it represents the most twisted horrors. I honestly cannot watch horror movies. I find majority funny/lame and predictable, but my mind takes those elements and multiplies them by a hundred. What about you and is there a regular nightmare you are having? In my case, it is unpredictable lift in a building that goes under the ground level too far, or insanely fast up. In a majority cases, it kills me and I wake up.
I don’t like horror movies, and actually I very rarely remember my dreams. Not sure why that is.
Were there some movies/books and albums that helped you to hide/cover and find a comfortable safe zone during pandemic? In the first months, I watched a majority of my favorite movies. Have you seen let say an Icelandic movie Metalhead?
I spent time reading a book called Gnostic Return in Modernity, which argued that much of modern secular philosophy is actually a resurrection of ancient Gnosticism using different language. For some reason that book did a lot for me.
I extremely appreciate you including a massive spectrum of genres in your music. What were your great recent discoveries within electronics (SIHEYMN’S Lament) and smooth bounce beats and rap/trap experiments (PASAQALIA II)?
Thanks. Yeah I really don’t listen to music much as I’ve mentioned, but I’ve always had a passion for classical music, metal/hardcore and rap/IDM and have tried to more and more find interesting formal connections that are both unlikely and underexplored.
Next to it, it was great to see you at “What’s In My Bag”, where you showed a number of artists within classical/experimental/orchestration music. When did this interest started? Did you let say had some cool music teacher in an elementary school, who showed you the beauty of Jesus Christ Superstar? I felt it in OIOION’s Birth.
Haha I did actually have a cool music teacher in high school who took me under his wing and taught me about Perotin and Stockhausen. His name was Mr. Betjeman and I will never forget him.
What is your feeling for avant-garde jazz? For the past few years, I really got into modern jazz. Therefore I wanted to check your interest in avant-garde jazz. I came across some double bass and trumpet in your music, and I immediately thought of Jaimie Branch, who left us recently. Do you know her? Definitely check her live version of “Prayer for amerikkka pt. 1 & 2”.
I don’t go that deep with it but yes I like avant jazz and improv music quite a lot, especially the legacy of Ornette Coleman.
When I heard accordion HAQQ and your passion for Bulgarian music through What’s In My Bag, where does this feeling for Balkan music comes from? I am half Yugoslavian and I will gladly provide you with more tips.
Please give me tips! I’ve just heard a few compilations of Bulgarian folk singing and find it very powerful, but as with everything I don’t really go that deep.
In a lot of ways this era for the band is about refining and perfecting things rather than breaking new ground, which I was more interested in until now.
What is your approach within naming songs?
It’s intuitive, I don’t think about it much but the names just come out. Usually they have very little to do with the lyrics.
I checked a number of podcasts with you from the latest years. But how do you feel about discussions in other, more random areas? Do you feel, same as me that discussion in our society is more and more challenging? Sometimes it is almost useless. Let say, currently we are picking a president in my country. The nation is split and I can feel so much frustration and internal issues. I am open to talk, but sometimes the minds are so closed and aggressive, it doesn’t make almost any sense.
I agree with you. I try to express my views because I believe they are of value, but sometimes communication seems hopeless.
Are you checking activities of modern black metal projects to check their progress and get inspired? Wolves in the Throne Room/Wiegedood or let say Mizmor? What about experimental avant-garde as for example Ihsahn?
Not black metal, but I’ve been enjoying the band Elizabeth Color Wheel quite a lot!