New Interview with Njiqahdda


HSS friends Njiqahdda become the first band I've interviewed twice, and that makes me a very happy little elf. Not only are they good people and profoundly interesting to talk to, they are brilliant musicians as well, and have created some of the most captivating, intense, and inventive music I've heard. I've always considered their music to be more of an experience that anything else; in other words, it's not something I turn on while washing the dishes - I always become more personally involved with the music than that will allow. Their discography is long and twists in many directions, and is about to take a new twist in the way of their forthcoming album, The Path of Liberation from Birth and Death, to be released on Pagan Flames very soon. (There are also some very special and very limited box sets of the album available at the band's own label, EEE Recordings.)

 



 Welcome, and thanks for doing this; it’s a great pleasure to talk to you again. You’re the next contestant on HSS!  How are things for you, your various musical projects and your label?

> Thank YOU for doing this. We definitely appreciate it. I will take ‘doing decently’ for $1000. Things are doing ok, could be worse, could be better, but I cannot complain. Busy as always, got a ton of stuff on my plate – new releases, playing in new projects, etc. Always hard at work!

I don’t want to beat around the bush, so let me just ask – the new album is a pretty sizeable departure from the sound(s) that Njiqahdda has become best known for. The atmospherics and ambiance that has characterized much of your previous work are for the most part just a piece of the backdrop. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fantastic album. It’s technically amazing, brutal, and challenging to say the least, but it still retains the beauty, in the end, that I for one expect when I listen to each of your new releases. Ultimately very rewarding to listen to, but there’s no doubt that people could be thrown off by it. Without sounding offensive - what on Earth were you thinking? Is the potential for fans to be greatly challenged by this record a concern, or something you were looking to accomplish?

> Haha, we were thinking many things while recording this record, almost none of them had to do with listener reactions. We did kind of figure people would not be happy with the outcome of this record, but as with the case of Yrg Alms and Divisionals, we are usually pretty wrong about concepts of public reaction to our work. We thought people would hate those albums as well.

Since Yrg Alms, we have been writing more progressive and complex arrangements, so this album is not like a huge ‘where did that come from?’ but we did kind of just dive head first into making the most challenging album we could (at the time). Mainly to see if we could pull it off, which we are both convinced we have done. If people are looking for us to continually repeat past works, they will be challenged greatly by the new one. If not, they will be pleasantly rewarded and it will make sense.

Besides wanting to create the most complex record we could, we also had a bunch of different purposes for doing this album the way we did. We wanted to try and step away from the kind of style we helped create and nurture (this whole, awful post-black crap that is super popular right now) and create something entirely new for us. We also wanted to try and distance ourselves from the rest of the music scene as much as possible, we get a ton of comparisons to bands who do not sound like us and that we have no respect for. Hopefully that will end now or at least taper off a bit.

The conceptual side of the album is pretty aggressive and complicated as well; we felt the music had to follow that template to be successful. Making an angry record with beautiful music would not have been as impacting, we do not think. One thing I think a lot of these ‘uber’tech’ bands forget to do is write songs. You can be technical and brutal, but still be melodic and write good songs. I think we achieved that.
People can react however they want to it, we are extremely pleased with the end result of it, therefore we have no concern to what people think, want or feel about it. If they do not like it, then do not listen to it. End of story.


 What has the response been like from Pagan Flames? They’re awesome, so I’ll have to assume they’ve given you 100% support on this?

> They have been incredibly supportive of this record and us as a band. We were initially kind of shocked by their positivism. Amazing people, amazing label, we are fortunate to have their support amidst our strategic decimation. Plus, if they did not think it was a positive move, I doubt they would waste their money releasing it. Ha.

Is this sound something that we should expect to hear more of in the future, or is the message here to expect the unexpected?


Let’s talk a bit about the title of the album. The Path of Liberation from Birth and Death. I studied and practiced Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism in great depth for years, so I’ve heard that title before, or at least something strikingly similar to it. It was often used for meditation manuals, ritual proceedings, or just general books on Buddhism. Was Buddhism or any other particular spiritual practice an influence on this record? Can you talk about other concepts that influenced the writing and recording of the album?

> I personally had been reading the Bhagavad-Gita quite a bit while writing/recording this album, so the influence of that definitely spilled into the conceptual side of the record. Although with that being said, the conceptual side of this record is less spiritual than past releases and more ‘matter of fact’.  The main concept of the album is what if man found a way to ‘cure’ death and become immortal. How that would affect earth, life, religion, philosophy, science, etc. There are a lot of minor concepts in the album as well; man’s inhumanity to man, destruction of earth, the lies of contemporary society, greed and power, etc. 

A main ideal for us personally on this one is ‘Njiqahdda versus the world’. Our questioning of everything in life and trying to come up with some kind of temporary (or permanent) solution to those things; whether right or wrong. The book we wrote with the album explains all this a bit more.


 When listening to this album for the first time, the title made me think back to Divisionals, which seems to explore the journey through life, from conception all the way to post-death. This album, by exploring the idea of man’s immortality, takes away a big part of that journey. Is there any relation between the two albums?  Did the concepts explored on Divisionals lead you into the concepts on this new one? Any sort of progression there?

> There is not an immediate connection between the two. Although, at some point everything we have done and will do in the future is connected, even if only a small connection. Having the same two people writing all the lyrical concepts creates a vacuum where everything is connected and comes full circle at some point. Life and death, both explored in Divisionals and The Path…, is something we have been more attentive to than usual. I would say musically speaking; there is a major progression between the two albums and lyrically a minor progression. They deal with the same topic in different lights and through different sonic (and conceptual) spectrums. Again, all of our work will be connected at some point, its only natural. To a large extent, our music and art has reflections of our personalities as people within it, even though that personal touch is minimal and we try to restrain it as much as possible.

The Njiijn Arts blog has featured some posts involving social and political issues recently. I don’t want this interview to stray into politics, even though I’m sure it would be a great conversation, but considering some of the material featured in the literature you have produced to accompany your music, I have to ask one very general question, which I will leave intentionally vague. What do you think of the current state of industrial civilization, and where do you think humanity is headed? (I guess that’s two questions.)

> I believe that while industrial civilization could have been something worthwhile, the constant overpowering of greed and the desire for power have left it in ruins. Man, when left to its own devices, almost always finds a way to pervert and destroy things that could be good or productive. Our world is in big trouble right now and those who think otherwise are only being ignorant or burying their heads in the sand. While we have always tried to steer clear of political matters for Njiqahdda, over the past year or so, we have realized that we simply can no longer do so. If we did not shed light on these things, or at least acknowledge them, we would be no different than those who choose to run from the problem. 

With that being said, neither of us can agree with this whole anarcho-primitivism ideal that has become all the rage in American black metal. On paper it sounds good, but would ultimately fail, if only for the fact that man devoid of any kind of law or rules in a societal structure could only devolve into violent obscurity. For all the laws we have now, look at how people conduct themselves. If there were none, how much worse would it be? Much worse. It would be a descent back into the Dark Ages (it is arguable to whether we are currently in a Dark Age or not), when in fact the only way to progress or live better is by creating a Golden Age of some sort. 

Capitalism is not a good thing (and neither is communism or any other half-brained socio-economic idea) and has created a crippling amount of injustice in the world. Do I have an answer to all of this? Not yet, but what I can say is that the way things are now is not good and does not look to get better. The rich are becoming richer, the poor are becoming poorer and the middle class is becoming non-existent. There has to be a revolt or uprising at some point.

Humanity is certainly headed for doom as far as I am concerned. There is no way it could not be. Man is the only creature that destroys its own habitat without repair, kills each other for non-existent reasons, etc. Just look into the history of man, it is flooded with bloodshed, ill acts, manipulation and any other awful thing you can think of. Truthfully, if all things are cyclic, like I would like to believe, the only answer is to begin again. We are so far into the downturn of our cycle that a quick fix or everlasting solution will not quell the damage done. The time for re-birth must begin again or nothing will be left to start another life cycle.

A highly limited box-set edition of the album is (was?) available from EEE Recordings, complete with DVD, book, shirt, meditation pack, etc., so this is obviously something you put a lot of yourselves into. How physically, emotionally and mentally draining was this record to create? How happy are you with the end result?

> There are still a handful of copies of the box set left. We had spent more time on this record than any other one before it. Granted the instrumentation was completely recorded by the end of December, between getting the guest vocals done, mixing and mastering, this whole thing took about three months to complete. It has been a challenge in every way possible. Was it draining? To an extent, yes, but now that it is all completed, we are ready to get back on to new paths. We are completely happy with the end result of this album. We have already begun work on many different projects. This year will prove to be incredibly busy, productive and fruitful for the two of us. 

When you complete something epic like this, is there a sense of relief where you just sort of step back, relax, and exhale? Or do you feel like “well, what now?”?

> I would not say that there is a sense of relief, we are just glad to be able to move on. The record is already old in our perspective, so we now can fully concentrate on new materials. We are about half way through writing the other full-length that will come out this year; it will be a double album of folk and ambient music. It is a nice change of pace for us, as far as writing is concerned. After the miasmic sprawl of “The Path…”, we needed to kind of strip things down a bit and try something completely different from that. But we do have quite a few EPs lined up of more technical intensity. It’s nice to be able to do all these different things, because it keeps our headspace clear. We still have a ton of ideas for new material in the future.

I’ve got to say that the new Funeral Eclipse album is fantastic; I’ve played it about a thousand times since I got it in the mail and love it more every time. What does the remainder of 2011 hold for your other projects and your label?

> Thank you for the kind words. 2011 will be very busy and productive for us as artists. A lot of new music, a new book, new films, etc. Plus, I am playing drums in two bands from the area, so there might be some live gigs coming up in the future. As far as the label goes, we are working with some new and amazing artists, so we hope to really push that a bit further. Always working, always busy, never resting on our laurels. 

The two Wheels Within Wheels albums that EEE has recently released are astonishingly good. Any plans to release more of Crow’s music in the future?

> As long as Crow wants to work with EEE, we will be there for him. He is a good friend to us, great person and makes brilliant music. We believe in his passion to create worthwhile art as much as we do our own. With that being said, do not be too surprised if we release another production from him this year; especially considering we have already spoken to him of this. You never know, right?

Thanks again for doing this, and for all the great music and everything that goes with it. Anything to add in conclusion?

> Thank you for being a part of this, supporting what we do and all around being a good person. We wish you, your family and HSS the best of luck. To our supporters, thank you for everything, we love you all a great deal. To those who will hate and complain, we love you too. Keep on hating.

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. - William Blake

4 comments:

a death cinematic ::: simple box construction said...

awesome band and label. one of the best out there.

Krumbled Kookie said...

Definitely.

Bensmasher said...

Hear a sample from the new album at www.paganflames.com

Samuel said...

Fantastic band, I would describe their evolution as gaining lucidity.