Interview with Jean Simoulin creator of Analogue Black Terror
How did you come up with the idea for a pictorial history/coffee table book of Black Metal demos?
Last year, a close friend of mine exhumed a couple of dusty shoeboxes that had been sleeping in a basement for 15 years, full of Black Metal demos, mostly from the 90s. He brought those to my place and we started drinking and browsing those relics from our youth, with intense emotion. It was like walking through an old forgotten family album. Out of the blue, my friend told me, without even really paying attention to his own words, “a book should be made out of that.” And here we are.
From inception to printing, how long did this project take?
Roughly, a year. When I have clear project in mind, and a publisher to make it happen, I’m hard to stop.
What was the most challenging part of the whole project?
Obviously, gathering the documents was the most challenging part as one can imagine. I started with the aforementionned collection and my own, that is very limited. Then I worked in circles. First circle was myself and very close friends collections. Then those friends recommended me persons from their own network in France, then Europe-wide, then world-wide. I also travelled with my scanner to Russia, Lithuania, not specifically FOR the book, but I took advantage of some events I was invited to attend to, to gather more visuals with some local enthusiasts.
I’ve been visiting weird places, like the house of Sad (666 zine, Cantus Bestiae, SVEST, etc…) who was a major contributor to the book on many aspects. Two weeks prior to my visit, his house had been half torched by some local junkies for some drug deal issues…
Then the other, secondary challenge, was of course to find a proper structure, and then a sub-structure to the book, so it doesn’t look like a mere boring catalogue, but like a piece of history with a proper narrative and its own, inner logic.
Were there any cassettes that you tried to find to include but could not? Alternately, were there any demos you thought you might never locate and suddenly found?
There has been miss and surprises indeed. I strangely couldn’t put my hands on Immortal, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir demos. I mean, Dimmu sucks ass nowadays but were, back then a ground breaking project, and definitely significative in the context, just like Cradle of Filth were. Also some older parts of history has been yet impossible to find… I wanted proto black metal documents such as Slayer, Venom, Bathory demos but was unable to get my hands on those. And it’s delicate to make very public calls to contributors on a project you want to keep secret, without spilling the beans. But considering the quite encouraging preorder sell numbers, I do hope that we’ll be able to publish an updated and augmented 2nd edition.
And then of course, a lot of un-expected surprises rose during the quest, like this insane Burzum rehearsal tape ‘designed’ by the Count himself, and adorned with a never published photo of him that he cut and glued on the card.
Anyway, I didn’t really started the project with a specific list in mind, although I really wanted some items to be there, for they were dear to my heart. The idea was to walk this path with a clear mind and keep an open mind to what I could find. And it paid out.
Why do you think there is there an undying interest and mystique about cassettes?
I think (but may be wrong) this is just a temporary nostalgic trend to enthusiasts who, like me, grew up with this ‘poor people format’ being omnipresent in their daily life, and who have now enough money and hindsight to revive it from its ashes. Maybe it will, just like vinyl, keep on growing, but I doubt it. Time will tell.
On a related question why do Black Metal demos specifically carry such cultural weight and nostalgia in the underground as compared to say, a Bon Jovi or Motley Crue cassette demo?
Because the beating heart of authentic, true black metal has always been laying in the underground, unlike hard FM or glam that I’ve always truly despised. I know that sounds cliché, and I also know that the underground is often synonymous of ‘It’s OK to be mediocre’, but as a matter of fact, most of the time as soon as a Black Metal act turns ‘mainstream’, history shows that it also ends up in a pathetic circus; Behemoth for instance, or Dimmu, or whatever. Therefore Black Metal creativity, not unlike fungus, thrives in the darkness and moisture of caves and cellars. And in this context, demotapes were one of the core elements of the scene. DYI, spontaneous, springing without control nor taking in consideration any kind of self-censorship, they were fuelled by a spirit of total freedom, of youth and are the core DNA of the history Black Metal.
Then, unlike the aforementioned bands quoted in your question, Black Metal values the filth of raw recordings that adds a sublayer of atmosphere, while any other mainstream musical genre will be after a ‘good’ production. I didn’t always shared this point of view, however. When I was a kid in the 90’s, I wanted the album, the final product. Demos were too bitter, too raw, and my young ears couldn’t take more than the Grieghallen studio recordings back then.
I know that these pieces of musical history are priceless but have you tried to appraise or value the monetary value of some of these items?
Not at all. This is of very minor interest to me, but if I have a day or two to waste once, I’ll go add up the prices on Discogs.
Do you feel that when a band reissues the music from these demos on cassettes that it devalues them in some sense? Does it take away from the uniqueness of it or is it a great chance for fans to hear the early material?
We don’t live in a world in which it’s possible to keep media content trapped forever in a physical shell. Of course, the feeling you have when you put your hands on a 25 year-old forgotten cassette gem, that is available neither on CD nor on youtube, is hard to estimate.
But you have to keep that in balance with the chance we also have to get access to things that were not accessible before. If I want to listen to the demo of Kvist, I can, whenever, wherever I want. And I’m not either hypocrite or grumpy enough to say that I dislike that.
What is the Unholy Grail of Black Metal demo cassettes and also what is the one demo you have been searching for that you can’t seem to find?
Strangely, I’m not really an active collector, and I’m more interested by the content than by the physical item itself, but I’d be grateful if someone could send me WOLFEN’s, ‘The Seven Geases’ files some day.
Lastly, what is your next project that you are working on?
Right now, as we speak, I’m fixing the last details for an exhibition in collaboration with Morten Traavik. It will happen next week in Tel Aviv, Israel, and is called ‘PARTY SONGS, Laibach and the Populism of Music’. I find hilarious to put up an exhibition about populism in a former BANK in Israel with a band still suspected by some to be nazis and who played in North Korea. What could possibly go wrong ???
Thank you and good luck!
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