Interview with Dave Hunt
The Black Heart, Camden
Interview by Caitlin Smith
Following on from the release of their latest album, Desideratum, it seems that Anaal Nathrakh can do very little wrong. Having played sets at both Temples Festival and Damnation recently, this band have long been proving they can pull some serious crowds. Hitting the Black Heart that evening, the night had long been sold-out due it’s minuscule capacity. The event promised to be one the most intimately explosive gigs seen in a long time. Sitting down with Vocalist Dave, we discuss the ins and outs of what makes up Anaal Nathrakh.
Anaal Nathrakh has played some pretty big shows recently, why did you decide play a small venue at the Black Heart?
It was on purpose, we thought it would be kind of fun. There’s several different venues round Camden and we usually play at the underworld so we thought, let’s just play at one that’s too small. Literally that, its sold out so it’ll be packed, it’ll go off like a bomb.
There are only two members of the band, do you find it challenging to fill the remaining slots and how do you decide who you play with?
We’ve been lucky so no; there haven’t been many challenges really. We usually have someone that we know we can ask who can have a go. Whether or not it works out in the long term doesn’t necessarily matter. The first time we put a band together we had Shane from Napalm, we had Nick Barker who used to be in Cradle of Filth, our mate on guitar who no one has ever heard of but the way things are now, it’s just generally falling into place. Mick happened to know Jay because he worked with a band he used to be in. When you’ve got a slot you go ‘I know someone who can do it, Ill give them a ring.’ It’s been the same live line-up for quite some time now so it’s all stayed and we don’t have to worry about it. If one of them leaves, we’ll deal with it then. We’ll ask a mate or something. I can’t stand the idea of doing auditions; it just seems massively arrogant and wanky to do something like that. Just try and find someone we know first.
I guess it’s an easier jell with someone you guys already know
Well yeah, and they’re much more likely to be down to earth. I can’t stand egotistical people in general, especially lead guitar players. They can be right cocks, they really can. Whereas we’ve managed to have a good couple that have been all right so we’ve been lucky.
So you’re songs, especially recently, have contained a lot of samples. Do you find it challenging taking these from a recorded track into a live environment?
It can be a little bit tricky but basically we’ve worked a way of doing it. We’ve worked out a system for incorporating the extra sounds live. It’s more a matter of whether it’s physically possible to play it. Our drummer confidently assures us that he can, and will someday play the fastest song we’ve ever done.
Which song is that?
Well there’s a couple that are pretty damn fast. There’s one called ‘Castigation and Betrayal.’ The screaming starts before the song starts and then it’s just a 300bpm blast beat the entire way through so me and Steve have got our work cut out for us. Other than that, most of them haven’t been impossible. Difficult, yes, but we’ve managed to pull it off. It very much has to be that way around. Some interviewers I’ve spoken to said ‘given that you now play live, do you write stuff for an album that’s more conducive to being played live.’ We don’t do that. We do an album to be the best album it can, and then you’ve just got to figure it out after. It’s worked out ok so far.
Do you find any songs you haven’t been able to convert into a live set?
No. Not yet but we haven’t tried that one I was talking about yet, so maybe that will be the one.
How would you say the live experience of Anaal Nathrakh differs from listening to the albums or over the radio?
That’s a little difficult to say because the thing you get from listening to it yourself is subjective, I don’t know what its like for someone else to hear an album any more than I can see what they think is blue and whether it’s the same as the impression I get from the colour blue. Generally I would think it adds to it. It removes the definition and clarity and all that kind of thing because it just will, the live environment is like that. It should amplify the visceral aspects of it, whether that’s true of not I’m not sure because I’m not watching but I would have thought so.
Is there anything you’d like a fan to take from a live show?
Whatever they want, I’m not interested in telling people what to think or feel or anything like that. I would like it to be a significant experience for them in one way or another, even if it’s only significant because it’s their 14th time seeing us. I don’t like the idea of someone turning up and going ‘oh that was ok,’ it seems to miss the point a bit to me but to whatever it is that they might take away, that is their business not mine.
Is there anything in particular you guys get out of making music?
To a certain extent, catharsis. Some of the stuff the subject matter is really, really horrible. There’s also the opportunity to actually engage with some of that horrible stuff. You spend a lot of our lives avoiding things, and I think there’s something worthwhile about genuinely acknowledging, confronting and owning the fact that there are less pleasant things. So in some ways it’s very positive and sometimes it’s a negative thing but I think that nonetheless you are enriched by enduring the negativity, if you know what I mean.
Your album images are all very dark, how do you decide what image to use?
Usually because Mick produces the artwork I’ll give him a list of stuff that relates to things in the lyrics, ideas and that. He doesn’t necessarily try to depict what I’ve told him but he thinks about it himself and finds a way of making it something. He’s an artist himself, he’s got his own things to say and show. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding really old out of copyright image and messing with it a bit or it’s something that you come up with entirely originally. I try and convey an atmosphere to Mick and then he does something consistent with that. The best exception to that would probably be on Passion. In Prague, just by the Charles Bridge there’s a torture museum full of contraptions used for torturing people. In there we came across a medieval wood cut picture of someone hung by the legs being cut by a large two man sword with the object itself next to it, so we did artwork based on that image on that one occasion. We thought it was a really shocking thing to see and we recreated that with an artistic twist. Other than that it’s just trying to create an atmosphere.
For an extreme band you seem to have quite a large fan base. Is there something you attribute to this popularity?
Honestly it’s not something I’ve caught myself thinking about. I mean, Cannibal Corpse have sold more than a million albums, they’re pretty extreme stuff. Other than that I’ve noticed it myself, as I don’t tend to look at things like that. If I were to try and explain it, it would probably be that our stuff is catchy and always has been. I don’t mean that its got elements of pop music in it, but its always been weirdly, paradoxically catchy. That would probably lend itself to people being able to twig onto it. Other than that, no. Someone else would probably have to explain that to me. I just don’t pay attention to it.
Is there anything you’d like to do as a band?
I’d really like to get to Japan, I’ve long been interested in seeing the place. Not because on any one particular facet of the place. I can’t tell you I’m really into sumo wrestling, it’s just how different it is on a fundamental level. You won’t get that from wandering round the arcades, it’ll take some time to immerse yourself in it but there could be something interesting there. That’s currently the biggest thing we’d like to do. Mostly it involves seeing places. In terms of albums, music and gigs, without trying to sound like a dick, we’ve played to 20,000 people. Doing a big gig, its none the less daunting but I’ve done it. The only thing I ever wanted to see in releases; there’s a shop in Birmingham where I used to buy things when I was 15, I wanted to walk in there and see a CD on the rack. I did that years ago, that was the limit of any ambition I had. So going places and doing good stuff, honestly that’s still the point. That’s the point, to express something that feels meaningful and express and arouse a similar reaction in somebody else. That remains the point really.
Is there anything you want to say to our readers?
I hope the interview wasn’t boring.