-How is the history of Tasmania relevant to the ideology and approach of the band?
Em: We aren’t convicts, if that’s what you’re asking!
I don’t think that the history of Tasmania is especially relevant to me. History is always the story of the strong crushing the weak, as told by the victors: how can this form a basis to create a philosophical outlook on the world? It can be entertaining, it can be interesting, but I don’t think history informs my ideology. I’m interested in history – but I’m interested a lot of things…
Not to pooh-pooh your question! It’s a good start to ask about the nature of place and the influence it has on where you come from. Growing up in Tasmania, the Tasmanian environment and the idea of wilderness has had a profound impact on the way I view the world. There are parts of Tasmania that remain uninhabited by humans to this day due to the inhospitable climate and barren earth. The idea of nature rejecting humans appeals to me greatly. Tasmania is a wonderful place to plant the seeds of misanthropy in a young mind.
Tom: Whilst the history of Tasmania is not present in Thrall’s music in any form of overt content, it is present in a latent form. As a feeling or ambience. Rather than a tangible theme in our music this history influences my sense of place and the emotions attached to it. Tasmania was once seen as a place of banishment, for those beyond redemption, one of the farthest flung corners of the British Empire.
The notion of wilderness is a common theme in the Tasmanian cultural identity, tourism industry, among bushwalkers and environmentalists as well as in black metal imagery/ideology. Unfortunately, wilderness is a cultural construct designed to satisfy human cravings for something that is no longer possible, i.e. that realm beyond our control. Our ability as a species to map, manipulate and ultimately plunder any environment has meant that wilderness is a longing, an ideal, not a physical actuality.
Tasmania encourages the largely solitary artistic urge in response to profound boredom, isolation, and sheltering indoors away from the beastly weather. In this way the place of my youth has come to define much of my personality.
-Is the overtly anti-christian sentiment of lyrics within the booklet significant? Or does the band take more interest and solace within anti-human frameworks?
Em: “No-Gods, No-Masters” is not necessarily purely an anti-Christian statement. A church can be any institution. A bible could be any book that prescribes an outline for all behaviour. For me, “No Gods, No Masters” is a rejection of all authority. For example, even a lot of atheists still clutch to ideas like rationalism to raise mankind above nature. To make rationalism your God is as false and stupid as to make up an imaginary friend to help you feel less afraid of the dark. I reject all the false pretenses from which humanity attempts to elevate themselves above their place within nature.
Tom: As a band Thrall does not necessarily have a unified philosophy. We are a group of collaborating individuals of which I am the founder. To have a unified position would undermine the principles that we have in common. I seek to undermine all organised or centralised philosophical, religious or political doctrines. I am opposed to such belief-systems. I believe that such life-methodologies limit the perception/will of the individual.
I do not wish to align myself with secular society, academia or rationalism either. They all have their own vested interests in controlling access to knowledge, wealth and the perpetuation of their own institutions – in much the same way as cloistered religious organisations perpetuate themselves.
I am anti-religious, anti-human, but not necessarily anti-spiritual. For example, the name Thrall was inspired by the spiritual/cathartic/liminal experience of being in the thrall of mind shatteringly loud music. For me it is the howl of the void – hence the name Thrall/Thrallofvoid.
-Would you align your ideas with the anti-civilisation theorems or are your pro-anti-human sentiments of a deeper, more misanthropic, solipsistic nature?
Em: I’ve never read John Zerzan of Fredy Perlman. I wouldn’t consider myself a solipsist either… My personal philosophy is untidy. It is not a neat little bundle of self-affirming aphorisms with a magical escape route built in the back to affirm my existence.
Humans are destructive. I see what humans do and I despise humans. I’m a human and I don’t believe I should be saved. Humanity will ultimately destroy itself because we cannot help but honour our true nature. There is no philosophy or ideology that will save us from ourselves.
This doesn’t mean I conduct myself poorly in my personal life. I’m not a bastard. I’m just a misanthrope.
-Who and what are your influences? I can hear parts Leviathan, parts Darkthrone/Orthodox BM and parts doom. Both within the sphere of music and outside of it!
Em: I like the wind. I enjoy ghost stories and eerie feelings, hence my aesthetic attraction to BM. I also like drinking until the sun comes up, and partying like a mad beast, hence my attraction to D-beat and Thrash. I like Motorhead, Discharge, Amebix, Killing Joke, Autopsy, Corrupted, Zeni Geva, Axeweild, G.A.T.E.S., Gallhammer, Aghast, Menace Ruine, Weakling and Craft. I enjoy the written works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Yukio Mishima and Lafcardio Hearn. I like lots of things. I don’t like lists though…
Tom: My influences vary from the obvious bands (such as Darkthrone, Craft, Leviathan et al.) to more esoteric sources of inspiration. I draw ideas as much from visual art, literature, film and science as from music. To name a fraction of those who have inspired me… Zdzisław Beksiński, Gustave Dore, Ivan Bilibin, Tim Noble/Sue Webster, Justin Bartlett, Farron Loathing, Goya, Bosch, Jan Svankmajer, Takato Yamamoto, Mervyn Peake, George Orwell, T.S. Elliot, Margaret Atwood, J.G. Ballard, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch, Arvo Pärt, Ligeti, Corrupted, Creeping, Trees, Avsky, Tyrant, Valdur, Weakling, Asunder, Bohren und der Club of Gore, Angelo Badalamenti, Ruins, 421A, Dishammer, Funeral Moth, Discharge, Martyrdöd, Amebix.
As an adolescent a friend introduced me to a lot of 1st and 2nd wave black metal, of these bands Darkthrone has remained the most relevant for me. I learned to play bass and guitar then drums during this period and went on to play various forms of punk, rock, post-rock, noise, improvisation and so on. Thrall has been a deliberate return to playing within a genre and then attempting to introduce musical elements from outside the genre such as music box, rhythmic structures from other genres, uncommon guitar effects and so on.
We recently played with K.K. Null (of Zeni Geva) which was a real highlight for us. Other acts we’ve played with recently include: AXXONN, Spheres, Traitor, M.O.1.O., Oceans, and Untermorast. This list includes as many esoteric/noise acts as metal bands. I see no reason to limit the type of performers we play with.
-What does the future hold for Thrall? And how has the reception for ‘Away From the Haunts of Man’ been so far?
Em: The reception for “Away from the Haunts of Men” is in its early days, so far. I think things will pick up after a while. We’re not very well known, and although we’ve been busy working on the album and artwork, and playing shows in Japan, we’ve not been particularly active in some of the places that make you more visible in the public consciousness. Not many people even know us in our home town!
I would like to play some shows, maybe in other places that I haven’t played before. I’d like to go back to Japan and tour with Ruins (Australia) or Psycroptic. Those guys are our friends. I’d like to make another film clip. I’d like to finish mixing the next album Thrall II: “Vermin to the Earth”, and start rehearsing for the next EP that we’ve done some conceptual work on, but we haven’t written much yet.
There is so much I would like to do, but what the future holds is anyone’s guess.
Tom: For Thrall the future holds… our next show with Psycroptic, Astriaal and Lacerta (Hobart – August 13th). Then in November we will play in New Zealand for the 1st time with Creeping (Christchurch – November 5th and Auckland – November 6th). Also we intend to record our 3rd release – an EP about Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), a.k.a. the Sea of Trees (樹海 Jukai). The region is prominent in Japanese mythology and literature and is supposedly the 2nd most popular suicide destination in the world. There is also the possibility that we will record several songs for a split release with Aurvandil.
We recently finished tracking the rest of our 2nd album “Vermin to the Earth” with our engineer/collaborator Trent Griggs at The Gate. The drum tracking was completed earlier in the year with Ippei Suda at LM Studio in Osaka.
We’re very proud of this recording. We used some very special microphones on the guitars and vocals in particular. The album is much more organic and live than “Away from the Haunts of Men”. We’re hoping the mixing/mastering will be done within the year.
Aside from Thrall, I hope to do illustrations for some other bands such as Psycroptic, Ruins, and a few others…
-Tell us about the bands history/origins and mission statement.
Em: Tom and I have played with each other in about 5 bands over the years. I joined Thrall because Tom wanted a bass player. I stopped playing bass and started playing drums because Tom wanted a drummer. As far as I know, we don’t have a unified philosophy or mission statement.
Tom: After 16 years of performing live in bands I had become rather disillusioned. I started Thy Plagues (which later became Thrall) as a last ditch effort not to quit music. It really began as a bedroom 4-track recording project. After recording the “Wrath Eternal” demo I enlisted Em and we performed live. On the strength of one of these performances Trent approached us about recording us. The eventual result was our first album and the decision to rename the project given the change in scope and style.
Our mission is merely to spread our musical virulence as contagiously as possible on our own terms (both personal and artistic).