Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Velvet Cacoon Hoax

Many in the black metal scene got fooled by a 'cough syrup addicted coffee house asexual vegan' purporting to be an underground black metal band whos members supposedly belonged to the terrorist group know as ALF(Animal Liberation Front). Using an imaginary "Diesel Harp" they made some of the worst sounding black metal music ever, and fooled a whole bunch of people.

please pirate all VC cd's.

here's the interview:

Some months ago there were rumors about your split-up. Could you explain what did excatly happen? If I’m not wrong the rumors started from SGL and were reported in your old website by LVG…Also during January a demo CD-R was released by her. What exactly happened in the past months? I know SGL were psychologically unwell...

I'm never really well, but I'm doing better now than ever. The last couple of months have brought the biggest changes within myself and I'm basically a completely different person than I was a year ago. I have more focus and clarity in my life and I'm sort of done with all the bullshit and games, hence the revelations that will come out in this interview. We'll be hated for sure, but anyone who knows us knows we could hardly give two shits about a scene of 14 year old children on the internet and a genre of music they've been into for a whole year.

Lately some new releases have come out from Velvet Cacoon. I’m talking about the acoustic piece “v.Genevieve” and the compilation “Northsuite”. Why did you chose to re-release some of your old stuff (precisely “Chapelflames” and “Music for Falling Buildings”)? I read you weren’t inclined to spread your early releases again.

We weren't. The girl behind Ivory Snowfish Music was up in Portland visiting and she got me three vials of rare tryptamines, so I returned the favor with the master of "Chapelflames".

Could you spend some words also about your acoustic live album including “Genevieve”’s songs? I know it was recorded on June 18th in a wine pub in Portland. What can you tell me about this gig?

It wasn't recorded June 18th, it was handed out then. It was recorded a while back at another show which we performed under a different moniker (since we had become so fed up with the Velvet Cacoon name). The show it was recorded at was from December 2004. It was pretty humorous actually. The owners of a gothic-themed wine bar asked us to do an acoustic set one night. We agreed, but only under the condition that our "rider" was fulfilled. The rider insisted that the back dressing room be plenished with rare assorted fruits (persian limes, rum cherries, river grapes), hibiscus tea flowers, five boxes of liquorice flavored Altoid mints, a hammer & 20 copper nails, spiced tofu and two bottles of Black Opal wine. We figured they would've realized it was a joke but when we showed up and went in the back to tune up we saw all that stuff sitting out, even the hammer and nails. That's something I won't soon forget. It's easily the best recording we've done.

I think “Genevieve” is one of the best 2004’s releases, one of a few black metal albums to place in a different perspective compared to the other genre’s releases, especially for the alienation behaviour it manages to shed. Could you explain how did you craft the album and when did you compose it?

Thanks for the compliment. We made the album when we were both rather depressed I guess. We were living in really slummy times in our flat in Portland. The drug addiction was insane and we really had no sense of ourselves or what was going on around us. I guess that's why that whole time period seems like a faint dream. We first wrote the album on a pair of old dingy blackwood acoustic guitars, then gradually transported it into an ambient medium, and from there we worked in the black metal elements.

I managed to appreciate and to understand “Genevieve” only after many listenings. I think it’s not an easy-listening album indeed, do you agree? It grows listening by listening according to me. Which are the main causes for this?

I agree 100%. Even our good friends, upon first listen, were wondering if we had lost our minds. If you listen to the album once you will not "get it", and that's how it should be. Every great album takes time to unravel. Anytime I hear an album that I love on the first listen, I'll end up hating it in a week. When you have a piece of art that takes time to appreciate, that appreciation will stand the test of time. It's sort of like doing your first line of coke or smoking your first cigarette. At first you're basically like "What the fuck is all the fuss about? That was bullshit", but after a few more tries you realize you can't go without it. I guess our music has a druglike quality in that aspect as well.

Why did you choose to release “Genevieve” for a label, giving to it much more exposure than your past releases? Maybe did some different feelings about it lead you to this choice? How did you get in touch with FMP?

I actually feel a little guilty for how we treated FMP. Those guys were 110% supportive of us, even when we weren't supportive of our own selves. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. We were just fucked up and mean people back then, and we had no remorse for anything we did. We decided to release the album to the public because we had nothing telling us not to. We just didn't care. Plus, and pardon the ego, we knew it'd cause one hell of a shit storm. Of course, that part came true.

I like your vocal performance on it very much. The vocals aren’t much used but they are surely extremely effective in their whispered malignancy. Why did you choose this way to sing? Why didn’t you use vocals so often?

I chose those vocals because that's the natural sound that comes out of me when expressing myself behind that Velvet Cacoon/black metal sound. My vocals are a bit strange because I recorded all of them while laying in bed and on a fucking lot of drugs. I had the flu and I just wanted to tear up my vocal chords. On "Fire Bloomed From Frost" there is an interlude in the middle where you can hear me coughing. I actually coughed so hard right there that a vessel in my head burst and my nose turned into a blood faucet for about 3 seconds. It was fucked up, but the bleeding stopped almost instantly. And there was so much weird shit going on during the "Dextronaut" recording that I won't even begin to mention that.

“Genevieve” sounds frigthfully cold…a surreal aura surrounds the songs…the inner landscape painted is always more desolated. Lyrics hasn’t been included on the booklet, so I suppose your main goal is to convey the mood you want but cutting off any lyrical interference. In a certain way using the music in its most primitive way. Is it correct? Don’t you regret that everyone could give his innermost interpretation to your music, picking a message that couldn’t have nothing to share with the original one?

Yeah. Recently the magazine SOD did a review of "Genevieve" and it basically talked about how it was an album to "clean your weapons to" or some nonsense, and how it would make you suicidal. Just a bunch of nonsense. The guy obviously missed the entire point of the album. But really, soon after the release of the album I realized nobody would really "get" the album unless they had experienced dextromethorphan addiction. And becoming addicted to DXM is not an easy thing to do. It needs to be consumed daily for 2-3 months before the addiction forms, and aside from myself and a few friends in Portland, I don't know anyone else who has ever entered that state of delirium.

You recorded “Genevieve” in your own studio (I suppose you did the same also for your other releases…?) I know someone could find the sound too confused but instead I think the production fits perfectly with your music, also in the most chaotic parts. Does the album sound in this way just because of limited means you have in your studio or, as I think, did you choose to get such production on purpose?

No, we chose to do it that way. This next statement will probably shatter a lot of the images people had of us, but "Genevieve" is much more of an electronica album than a metal album. We used a Korg Triton on all of the songs, along with the guitar. We used to joke around about our guitar sound (this is how we came up with the legendary dieselharp idea) and the whole idea was to make the guitar as ridiculously spacious and reverb'd as possible while still retaining the sound of an electric guitar. We basically recorded the guitars, then we copied the waveform onto a computer and we reduced all the treble and stripped away the sound down to a low decibel level so that we were left with a low rumbling bassy sound that sounded like it was coming from underwater. We took that sound and basically fucked it to death with all sorts of gates and echoes, then we layered it back into the guitar and mixed that with a lot of ambience from the Korg.

I know you like to try out different techniques in order to carry out special sounds (the dieselharp on “Genevieve”, the EVP on “Velorum” Could you spend some words about your experimentations? Why do you feel the urge to express yourself also through such weird ways?

Well, in the words of Whitney, the dieselharp is really a hype machine. It's one of our many stories we used to toy with the black metal scene because we knew it would work. It's just a big inside joke to us all. Anytime we see a glowing review for Velvet Cacoon we just chalk it up to another string on the dieselharp. The dieselharp is like CNN for black metal, it's the newspaper you get up and read each morning. It's the metaphor for our 365 day voyage from "who is VC?" to "Shut the fuck up about VC". It was a marketing ploy to prove we could fist fuck a dead scene full of idiots. It's not that we hate the people, it's that we find the message of black metal to be worse than Christianity and we wanted to mock every ounce of this community. Of course, this only relates to the interviews and shit we did where we gloated about the ecofascist dieselharp playing nonsense. The mood of "Genevieve" and the drug use, I can assure you, was and is very authentic. In a way we were playing characters of ourselves... some of the authentic parts of ourselves, and other parts were pure fabrications.

“P.S, Nautical” e “Laudanum” are maybe the tracks I’ve more appreciated. Could you spend some words about these songs? Is there instead any track you like more than others, or maybe any which has any particular meaning for you?

Thanks. "Ps Nautical" is our favorite song from that disc as well. It was one of the first songs we wrote for the album, and one of the last to be recorded. It has the best mood of any song on the album and the best composition. I especially like the outro, which is a combination of an acoustic guitar with loads of bass-laden echo and wind blowing over raindrops that we simulated to sound like little bells. "Laudanum" took us the longest to actually record. At one point we had around 12 versions of that song. We just could not get it right and we weren't happy with how it was coming out. "Laudanum" on the CD-r version of "Genevieve" actually has no drums. It's all guitar. When we were re-tooling the album we messed with "Laudanum" for a very long time before we finally got a good idea for the drums and a few vocal lines. We had our good friend Marcy do a few piano lines and during the bridge of the song she hit this one really great melody on the piano so we recorded that one for the song. The outro is a slowed down and heavily reverb'd sample of the Bows song "King Deluxe" from the album "Blush", which is my all-time favorite album and something every self respecting music fan should own.

Especially in the past years there has been many romors about Velvet Cacoon. Some of them was even about your supposed non-existance, others said you were gnomes and so on. Why have you been never interested to discredit these rumors choosing instead to stay in the background? I suppose your point of view about this matter changed after “Genevieve” release…or am I wrong?

We were too busy sitting back and laughing. Honestly, what is there to discredit? Some kids on the internet say something and we are supposed to do damage control? That's not how we looked at it. My name isn't SGL. My name is Josh. During the day I ride my bicycle through Portland, occasionally stopping at bars for a Fat Tire or to a market to buy some fruit. By night I'm drinking wine, smoking cloves and doing whatever drugs I've come across that day. I'm not blowing up logging trucks and meat packing plants. I'm actually a very nice and peaceful person, the complete opposite of what most people would expect. I have short hair, a big beard, and I love Billie Holiday. Essentially, I'm every image obsessed black metaller's worst nightmare come true... and they already paid me my 15 bucks.

Black metal ideology is rooted in conceptions of Satanism, with some bands now focusing on the religion of their ancient forefathers. Do you consider Velvet Cacoon as a black metal band, ideologically? And musically? Velvet Cacoon seems to be aiming for a more cerebral black metal experience focusing on the nature, the universe and so on. This is in opposition with typical black metal beliefs…no life, no hope, death and so on. So...what does black metal represent for you? I think you live your music in a different way than usual extreme metal bands…

Well, first off let me say that any band which places any emphasis or importance on any religion, including Satanism, is in serious need of a brain transplant. I'd rather listen to Christian rock than another band singing about the bloody goats. Enough is enough. If people want to talk about gimmick bands, lets talk about the children writing 3rd grade lyrics about the same boring predictable cliche nonsense. If people want to talk about dishonest bands, lets talk about the legions of people who proclaim to adhere to the principles of Satanism, meanwhile waste their lives away playing Playstation and working at McDonalds. If people want to talk about bands who are fake, talk about 99.99999% of bands out there who preach about the war on Christianity and don't do shit about it. If anyone wants to talk about parody bands, lets discuss all these people who say "black metal is more than just music" then focus on everything BUT the music. If anyone wants to talk about joke bands, lets talk about all the people who claim to despise society yet are just as law abiding and obedient as the sheep they claim to loathe. And I'll tell you what, if you want to talk about hoax bands, lets take a look at every band with the same looking logo, the same sounding album, the same mediocre artwork, the same riffs I've heard on every album since Transilvanian Hunger and the same ranting about how Jesus is a whore and "every Christian must die". If anything, Velvet Cacoon has been the most authentic band in years. We might have shrouded ourselves in some glorified stories and had a laugh in the process, but the principles we believe in, the message we carried, a fascination with the stars and silence, with drugs, surreal dissociative experiences and a deep appreciation and respect for nature, those were more real than anything you'll find in "black metal" these days. And did I mention our music is actually good? That's something all the "Trueness" in the world can't buy you.

The only cancer to black metal is black metal itself. Velvet Cacoon made such a commotion because people knew we weren't playing by the rules. Even the people who hate us can't stop talking about us. How many bands can cause a reaction like we did? We pushed all the right buttons, and everyone knows it. We exposed it all. These "Satanists" are 10 times as phony as Velvet Cacoon could ever aspire to be. They make the dieselharp look like the textbook definition of truth. If anyone is to talk about hoax bands, lets start with every band besides us.

Now don't get me wrong, there are intelligent people involved with this music. It's not like I'm the be-all-to-end-all of black metal and nobody knows anything. You have to look, but you will find there are intelligent people out there... though it's not easy.

You music on the whole can’t be filed at all under black metal. Why have you chose to play also black metal though many of your releases can be labeled under other genres? Which are your main musical influences? What do you like to listen to ususally? From where do you gather inspiration to compose your music?

Well we haven't done black metal in a while. Our two most recent recordings were the piano based demo and the acoustic version of "Genevieve". I listen to a blend of old classics like Billie Holiday, Isaac Hayes and The Righteous Brothers as well as more recent triphop and pop groups like Alpha, Cindy Lauper, Lauryn Hill, The Verve, Tears For Fears, Fiona Apple, Coldplay, Annie Lennox, Portishead, Anja Garbarek, Tricky, and Depeche Mode. I wouldn't consider any of those to be musical influences though. The only thing that influences me when I make my music is the memories I have when I was a kid and visited my grandparents mansion on the Chesapeake Bay each winter. Nothing can compare.

To proclame oneself as misanthrope is a trend in nowadays black metal scene. Why according to you has this bent growing when on the other side the deeds and the lines of conduct of these people haven’t nothing to do with the real essence of misanthropy?

Because, like I said earlier, these people are the real hoaxes. It's easy to paint yourself a misanthropic Satanist and pretend you hate everything, but that's all it is - pretend. These people don't give a shit really. This is just an adolescent phase for them. They'll be over it in a few years, sell their records and head off to a new hobby. I've been into this music for a long while now, enough to know how to play my cards right. I've seen lots of people come and go from this genre. The people talking about Velvet Cacoon right now won't be around in another 2-3 years, and that's a guarantee.

You spoke in the past about the asexuality of Velvet Cacoon’s members. Can you explain the reasons of this choice? Is it a kind of uttermost choice of isolation? I read you said sex is the ultimate tragedy of man. Maybe this choice is a kind of symbolic refusal to belong to the human being?

This is another thing that we are really serious about. The idea of sex is repulsive. It is humorous too, but ultimately repulsive. Essentially, we - as humans - are tiny moist meats. We get together, grunt and moan, make silly faces and then it's over. And another little meat is created. And this is what our society is based around? I'm the type of person who finds satisfaction in a nice cup of Earl Grey and a fireplace. Whores never tickled my fancy, literally or metaphorically.

Your refusal to be part of the human society is due to fact you consider only yourself? Do you try to avoid to come into contact with someone?

No, I love people these days. It's one of the many changes that have processed in my mind lately. Life is far too short to pretend you hate the world. If you don't have the intelligence to enjoy life, don't live.

You professed the love for the drug Dextromethorphan. In which way does it work? How useful is the experience with this drug to the process of composing music for Velvet Cacoon?

I'm sick to death of talking about DXM. I've talked about it a lot and feel any more talk about it will be redundant. I'll just close with this: If you have never experienced the 4th plateau, you have not experienced true life yet.

I know you support ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and at the same time are flesh-eating. Why according to you is it correct to act in this way instead to have a vegetarian diet? Can you explain what this organization is about and why you support its ideals? Why did you regret to link your visions about ecoterrorismand ALF with Velvet Cacoon?

ALF? I honestly have no idea. I actually stopped eating meat a while back but I'm not preachy about it. I have plenty of friends who enjoy a steak and that's fine. It's just a personal choice I made and one I'm happy with.

Since I live in Italy obviously I’ve never attended a gig of yours but I know they are really extreme: machines emanating sub-bass drones, little girls acting as a torchbearer, even self mutilation and so on. Could you tell me more about your live performances? What do you try to convey over the audience acting in this way? How do audience react to your shows?

Yeah, there are also space shuttles that fly out from the stage. We've never performed live as a metal outfit. Our only live shows have been piano and/or acoustic based, and we generally perform under different band names as the last thing we want is to walk out on stage with our Martin guitars and have 50 black clad metallers with arms crossed waiting to see us "headbang". Our ideas for the live shows basically came to us one night while we were watching the Spinal Tap movie. We wanted something so outlandish and absurd, and we knew how to get that. I love performing live acoustic sets though, and am not opposed to playing VC songs live in the future. It depends on a lot of variants though.

Taking the Velvet Cacoon concept I suppose nature is very important in your everyday life. Which feelings do you manage to achieve when you stand side by side with the nature? Do you live in town?

Yeah, I love nature in an almost perverse way. I do live in the city but the great thing about Portland is it's perfectly situated between the mountains and ocean. There are sixteen bridges in Portland, something I can't get enough of. I feel the ultimate catharsis in nature. It's where I feel at home, feel alive and unrestricted.

December Star Embassy trilogy was completed with “North of December”…what has the future in store for Velvet Cacoon?

I've got my solo project (which is far from metal) under a new name and will be recording my debut soon. I'll be doing a series of small live acoustic sets later this summer as well. As for Velvet Cacoon, we may do something else but right now it's not a priority.

Thanks again for the interview. Really appreciated. Last words are yours…

You're a beautiful one. Thanks for the great interview and salutations to you and all the Italians out there who wrote me kind and honest words over the last couple of years.

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