An Interview with Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of Liturgy

Written By Matthew Caron

Conducted at Goodbye Blue Monday in Brooklyn NY

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is the songwriter behind Liturgy, a Brooklyn-based black metal group that doesn’t much resemble what most people think of when they think of black metal, if they are aware of the genre at all. This is because Liturgy are forging new ground in a mode Hunter refers to as Transcendental Black Metal, which dispenses with the nihilism and free-floating hate of Scandinavian black metal in favor of the mystical and ecstatic.

M: So because this is a somewhat literary blog, I have to ask…read anything good lately?

H: Lately my genre of choice currently is correspondence, because I was getting into Artaud and he had this correspondence going with Jacques Riviére, which is really awesome. He was applying to be in this magazine and was rejected over and over again, and then eventually they published his correspondence. Recently I read the Freud-Jung correspondence. There’s a famous set of letters between Freud and Jung cataloging how they met and their eventual splitting. There’s something really exhilarating about reading correspondence for me. There’s some good Ginsberg-Kerouac letters that were just published. Also Heidegger’s letters to his wife. I read a lot more philosophy than literature. There’s really no contemporary literature that I’m aware of that I’m excited about, except maybe Don DeLillo. As far as I know, literature is dead, right?

M: Those are fighting words on this blog.

H: I think that images and sounds are clearly winning the battle against the written word.

M: The need to print things on real paper is diminished, it’s true.

H: I just saw an interview with Lil Wayne where he said he doesn’t even write down his lyrics.

M: Yeah. When he was younger he’d fill all these notebooks with lyrics, and apparently felt burdened by them. His solution was to have this epic recording session where he just burned through all the stuff he wrote, recording everything and tearing the pages out as he went along until there wasn’t any paper left. And then he was done with notebooks.

H: I like that idea. Sure, if you want to write something, you can write something for the ages. That’s a good reason to do it. But something like The Cremaster Cycle is also for the ages.

M: I guess this is as good a point in the interview to ask you how feel about the internet. So. How about the internet?

H: I love the internet. The internet is destroying the notion of a scene. Kind of apropos of what you were just saying, as soon as you record your music you can put it on your MySpace and it’s as easily accessible to someone in New Zealand as it is to your friend in Bushwick. It’s in a nice kind of substrate for a universal culture, and I’m kind of into things going in that direction.

M: Are there any literary themes in Liturgy’s Renihiliation album that people might not have picked up on?

H: Sort of. The theme of Renihilation is part of a long history of post-religious, mystical life affirmation in the spirit of Nietzsche and Deleuze. I believe in the existence of the élan vital, which is like the fundamental form-destroying life force. It’s a term from Henri Bergson, a philosopher from the early part of the Twentieth Century. The internet is intensifying its power to destroy things immediately after it creates them, and that’s pretty rad. I think that’s especially going on in hip-hop, which makes me very interested in hip-hop.

M: You’re very much about the early Twentieth Century’s philosophers and the fathers of psychological theory.

H: I think we still basically live in the same world as them. People talk about modernity and post-modernity but I think that nothing has fundamentally changed since Romanticism. The concerns of someone of Nietzsche are basically the same today as they were then, and that things just get more and more inflected. Ever since there was a collide between Vedic wisdom and Western culture things haven’t been the same. Ever since capitalism started eating cultures. Both of those things happened around the same time.

M: That is an incredibly all-encompassing explanation. I am super impressed by that.

H: Have you read the Transcendental Black Metal Manifesto? I wrote it, which makes it literary I guess.

M: No. What’s it about?

H: A very important part of Liturgy is The Transcendental Black Metal Manifesto, which is this pamphlet we have at our merch table. Very early on in the history of Liturgy I decided that this style of music was transcendental black metal. There was this black metal theory symposium last November that I was invited to speak at, and I presented a manifesto on the meaning of Transcendental Black Metal. The idea of Liturgy from the start was to reinvent black metal on the basis of ecstatic affirmation, which comes down to the concept of Renihiliation. It’s the annihilation of an annihilation, like a post-nihilism of double nihilism. The idea was giving form to what it means to make American black metal. I oppose the Scandinavian and Norwegian traditional of black metal, which I call Hyperborean Black Metal, which is nihilistic black metal. I see it as a preceding stage, a culmination and destruction of death metal which opened up a wider field of musical possibility. Transcendental Black Metal follows as a culmination and destruction of Hyperborean Black Metal. It states that there’s a much wider field of possibility for black metal than any of the European bands ever explored. It has to do with going much further into the mystical and transcendental, and involves cutting away all of the bitterness. In so much black metal there’s this hatred that’s directed nowhere and everywhere. Growing up I loved that kind of black metal, but growing up and becoming a more mature person I felt it was important to throw out that idea of endless hatred, because once you get that out of the way there’s a lot more to do. The Transcendental Black Metal Manifesto is a possible history of metal expressed in a mythological form. I don’t think I need to say much more about it than that.

Renihilation is available on 20 Buck Spin Records

Transcendental Black Metal: A Vision of Apocalyptic Humanism is available as a pamphlet at Liturgy performances.
Lacanian Ink issue no. 35


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