(NCS contributor BadWolf caught up with Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd, Will Lindsay, and Sanford Parker before the band’s live performance at Harpo’s in Detroit on February 25, 2011, and conducted this very interesting and revealing interview, which includes candid comments about doing business with record labels, some news about Nachtmystium’s next album, including a working title that appears to have been conceived during the interview, and some eye-opening comments by Blake Judd about the rape charges now pending against Jef Whitehead (aka Wrest), the frontman of Leviathan and a Nachtmystium collaborator. BadWolf proves again that he knows how to do this interview shit . . .)
BW- So how’s the tour going?
Blake Judd- Tour’s going really well so far. The Cradle of Filth guys have been super cool to us, which was our biggest concern. Not that we had any reason to worry but they’re a big band and we’re not and we’re playing direct support to them. We thought we would be treated like we’ve been treated before which hasn’t been the case. Kids are coming out. The crowd reaction has been sort of eh; some people seem kind of confused by it.
BW- But that’s your career though, isn’t it?
BJ- There’s truth in that, too. The tour is good though. We’ve had more problems with our internal, like, with our bus company than anyone else as far as the people we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
BW- At first I was really puzzled by the bill and then it started to make sense to me. Cradle of Filth is a band where you can ask ‘is it Black Metal?’ Well, what is Black Metal, anyway? It is Black Metal but it’s reaching out of that sound in a way, which is what you guys do as well, so it ended up making sense to me. Did it make sense to you?
BJ-I don’t give a shit, personally. We come from a world where most members of bands I know would take joy in beating the shit out of someone from Cradle of Filth. That’s the world I come from. I don’t care about that anymore, I’ve been over that for a long time and do my own thing. We haven’t really found our crowd. We don’t have beards or a mountain of Sunn amps, so we don’t appeal as much to the hipsters. The people we work with deal more with bands like Cradle of Filth than bands we might listen to in our free time. It’s strange but we’ve got a good thing going, a good crew of dudes. The crowd certainly doesn’t seem to dislike us. We’re further proving ourselves to be a flexible band, which is important. I don’t know, what do you think?
Sanford Parker- I agree. I heard Cradle of Filth for the first time two months ago, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
BW- What was your first impression, like, were they gentle in popping your Cradle cherry?
SP- They’re cool dudes. I like them personally. I don’t really care for their music but that’s not why I’m here.
BW- So, Addicts.
[Blake points at Sanford. Laughs all around]
SP- I’m pointing at Will [Lindsay, bassist].
BW- Why are we pointing at Will?
BJ- Will played most of the instruments on Addicts.
BJ- No, he made a huge contribution—way more than he’s gotten in the press so far.
BW- I’m rectifying that.
BJ- Everyone always says I write all the music and Sanford does all the production when in actuality everyone was very creative and involved with everything. I mean Will played—What did you play, Will? Guitar, keyboards, vocals.
Will Lindsay- Bass.
BJ- Bass. We tried to get a drum for you to play but couldn’t find one!
WL- I got the assistant engineer credit for reasons that will go unmentioned. [laughs]
BJ- Addicts is a group record. It’s not just me and our old guitar player, Jeff [Wilson], who supposedly wrote records with me but really didn’t… It was more like I brought a bunch of ideas to the table, Wrest from Leviathan put some drums to them and that’s when everyone else in the creative circle got involved. No discredit to Jeff, he was involved. And Will as well. Everybody wrote riffs. Everybody wrote songs. I don’t know, Will, did you bring anything to the table that actually ended up being a song?
WL- Seven Seven Five Five
BW- What’s seven seven five five?
WL- I don’t know, it was a working title.
BJ- Oh it’s… It’s track five. What is that again?
[laughs all round]
BW- Wait, wait, I can figure it out!
SP- “The End is Eternal”.
BW- And I like that one!
WL- I wrote the end.
BJ- Year it’s like durr na nerr nerr nerrrr. Something to do with fire.
WL- Wait, wait, “The End is Eternal”, was that one that had to do with…
BJ- “Then Fires”!
WL- Yes! “Then Fires”.
BW- Well maybe I should just interview you, Because I really like those tracks. Who am I kidding? I like the whole fucking record. How do you guys feel about it?
SP- I think it sucks.
BJ- We like it a lot more than we like Assassins and everybody seems to like Assassins more than they like Addicts, which is really weird. It’s a better record than Assassins. Assassins was directionless, we were lucky; that album, just like Instinct:Decay, did a lot more than we expected it to. When we were making Assassins we had blinders on. We just blindfolded everybody, went into the studio with a mountain of drugs and booze and made a record, that’s really what happened. It’s weird and it’s cool, but it’s not very focused.
WL- Well with Addicts we wanted to write more songs, less drawn-out jammy sort of stuff.
BJ- That exists on Assassins due to lack of material going into the studio, to be completely honest with you, and I say this in retrospect. It’s done well and the label is happy with it, but it’s not a full album of material. I was in a dry writing streak and had ten minutes worth of music written. Thanks to Sanford and everyone else involved. Like Tony Laureno, on Assassins, he said ‘we need to do this and this then this drum beat over that riff,’ where I came into it with one drum pattern in mind—that’s how the big end of the song “Assassins” came together, where it starts slow and just gets faster and faster. That was all Tony. My idea was to just go right into a blast beat after the break. That’s what was cool about that record. We’re the one band that never knows what we’re going to do.
BJ- We never have any idea, at all, what the record will sound like until we’re mixing. It’s the same with Addicts. We were sitting there going ‘what the fuck,’ when we listened back to the rough mix. It’s a weird record, it’s us doing what we want to do, but we didn’t have any idea what it would sound like.
SP- Like you wanted that Katatonia song and I turned it into a dance song.
BJ- Right. “No Funeral” was supposed to be a Katatonia-type song, like a throwback to Brave Murder Day while “Nightfall” was supposed to be the dance song. They ended up switched because Sanford heard something completely different in what I brought to the table.
It’s a barrage of egos, but in a good way. We’re a group of people who are confident in their ideas and what they bring in. Everybody respected each other enough to listen to everybody else’s ideas. Fortunately we had enough of a budget to fuck around with things long enough to find out if we wanted to go with the original plan or the new idea. As a result, with a hodgepodge of creative minds and all these parts everybody provides, it turns into an awesome recording session. It’s just like the Twilight record.
BW- Which is also a kickass record.
BJ- I love that record. I like it more than either of the last two Nachtmystium records. One thing we bum about is that people totally… nobody noticed that it even came out.
BW- Well, Cosmo Lee saw it, but he hated it. Which is… eh…
BJ- I could care less. The fact is that the last two Nachtmysitum records landed us on magazine covers but the Twilight record didn’t, which just goes to show that the fact that I take lots of pictures and feed the press chitter-chatter [works]. What you do with the finished product in terms of talking to the press will kind of determine [the outcome]. We have a super strong PR team with Nachtmystium, which is why it’s in magazines all the time. Twilight, the fact there is I think [to Sanford] and I think you would agree, that we made a stronger record.
SP- Twilight is one of my favorite records that I’ve ever been a part of.
BJ- Same here, man. Neither of us say that from the viewpoint of the creative minds behind it, either. We were both more involved in the Nachtmystium records than Twilight, because of Wrest’s presence. He’s so fucking dominant in the studio with his direction.
We’re kind of straying from the question.
BW – [I would go on to hate saying this] Stray all you like, my man. But I do need to know—are you feeding me chitter-chatter right now?
[Blake mumbles. Crowd laughs.]
BJ- I’m feeding me whisky.
SP- Crown Royal breeds chitter-chatter.
BJ- Did I say anything you don’t agree with though?
SP- No. Well, I don’t agree with anything you say, but whatever.
BJ- Fuck you!
BW- Well, I’ll talk about Assassins first because I have less to say about it. The cool thing about Assassins is it is a very singular experience that flows really well front to back. It’s cool that it’s brief!
BJ- That’s a pretty cool comment to hear! It does work as like one piece. If you took a part of it and put it with any other record of ours it would not work quite right.
SP- That was kind of the idea. We had all these pieces and strung them together in that way.
BJ- The only reason the album is broken up as much as it is in terms of individual tracks on your compact disc or ipod is due to contractual obligations to have ten songs on the album. “Seasick” was intended to be one song.
BW- I never listen to parts of “Seasick”. It’s one song to me.
BJ- But we had to break it up into 8, 9 and 10 to please the label with ten songs.
BW- Just like “One of These Nights” is part of “Assassins” [the song] to me.
BJ- Exactly. “One of These Nights” is the introduction to “Assassins”. That happens because we’re on a big label that can say, ‘well, you only turned in nine songs, so fuck you,’ and they keep more money.
BW- Is that really how it works?
BJ- Damn right.
SP- Yeah. They’ll only pay you for whatever’s in your contract, so if you make a contract for ten songs and deliver five they’ll only pay you out for five out of ten.
BJ- And it won’t matter until you put Slaughter of the Soul out and you’re two songs short of what you’re supposed to have on an album selling hundreds of thousands of copies. That’s when a record label can say, ‘you didn’t do what you agreed to do; technically you’re in breach of contract and fuck you.’ That’s business, man; it’s just the bottom line. When you work with these bigger labels there is a very business-oriented impersonal sensibility, but you need to learn how to work within that if you want to be able to go out on the road and be on tour, to be able to bring talented people out [points at Sanford] and pay them accordingly. That’s what we’ve done, but that’s also why there’s ten tracks on Assassins, in case it became a big hit.
BW- Which it sort of is.
BJ- Ah, it is and it isn’t. It’s not making house payments for Sanford, me, or anybody else.
BW- And Addicts?
Yes, yes because now we can be on tour all the time and pay our bus rent. There is this very gross idea that Nachtmystium is much bigger than it is. When we headline in Chicago we may draw 300 people. New York or LA, 350. Any other place, 100 people is a good night, 150 is cause to celebrate. These people who call us sell-outs — sell-out what? Not a venue.
BW- Addicts sort of works as a concept record with the music video tied in. It all focuses on the drugs. Going into it, did you decide—this will be the drug record! Or was it something that came up later?
SP- Every record is the drug record.
BJ- Every record with us is a drug record. Addicts is the record I made while I was a heroin addict—which I have kicked.
BW- Congrats on kicking the habit.
BJ- Well, I only did it so these guys would come on tour with me, and I’m not kidding. That album is about hard living. I want to live hard. I don’t want to skip a beat ever. If I can have a good time I will have it, if I can have an experience I am going to indulge in it, and if I die tomorrow I never had a dull moment. That’s how I want to live my life, and how I have done so since I was eighteen years old.
And with that decision-making process comes a series of ups and downs that you need to be prepared for, but I’ve never let that shit allow me to treat my friends like crap. The issue of keeping yourself under control—behavior, finances… don’t live beyond your means. I’ve tried not to do that. I’ve floundered here and there, but I’ve never walked out of Sanford’s studio in the middle of the night with a $2,000 piece of equipment to go buy dope.
SP- That’s because I’d slit your fucking throat.
BJ- It’s beyond that, though. I believe that the strength in Addicts is that you can live your life like that and not be a complete fuckup. You choose to let it destroy you. I’m here. I had to kick a fucking bad habit before I left and I did. I didn’t let it bother anyone else in this bus other than 24 hours of me being moody.
BW- Can anybody else corroborate that?
BJ- It’s not a fake record.
BW- I think you can tell.
BJ- I hope so. I’m certainly not going to dress up something as serious as that and use it to market and sell a record. I would be offended if someone did that.
BW- Addicts is lyrically by Chris Black. Did you ask Chris to write these songs about these subjects?
BJ- Oh yeah. He knows me super well—I didn’t have to tell him anything. He talks to me on a daily basis, so he knows what’s going on in my life. I just told him I needed songs about this and that. The only lyrics I contributed were on one song that is particularly personal to me, which he re-arranged and added to.
BW- Which song?
BJ- “Ruined Life Continuum.”
BW- Which you’re playing tonight—the set list has been leaked. But you’re not playing anything off Instinct: Decay or Demise. What went into that decision, and will you play any of that material in the future?
BJ- Oh yeah. I always play that stuff, but I have Sanford with me for the first time and we’ve got a forty-five minute set. I want to play material that I made with Mr. Sanford Parker, because I’ve wanted him to tour with me for a long time. I’ve got Will here as well [to Will] no discredit to you, but he’s made records with me as well.
WL- Oh, I’m horribly offended.
BJ- I wanted it to be material everyone was comfortable and familiar with and had worked on. We are playing to larger crowds than we would on a headlining tour.
SP- With a forty-five minute set we wanted to play more recent material.
BJ- And the most accessible material, considering the band we are opening for. What propelled Cradle of Filth beyond the Emperor and Immortal ‘big’ black metal world was the material they did that was more [accessible]. They’ve broken into the Marilyn Manson crowd, the Hot Topic crowd. That isn’t something that I want to chase after, but I was fourteen and bought stupid pants from Hot Topic; I worked there in high school, I admit. I know what those people like and want to listen to from experience. They don’t want to hear my abrasive ten-minute black-metal epic. They want “Ghosts of Grace” and “Nightfall”; quick, to-the-point, simple songs. Those happen to be the songs we know the best.
WL- There is also a certain cohesiveness that comes from having the material consist of two consecutive albums.
BJ- Excellent point.
BW- Well, also Doomsday Derelicts, because you are playing “Hellish Overdose”.
BJ- We play that to remind everybody that we are in fact a metal band. Playing that makes up for not playing anything off the earlier records, in my opinion.
BW- It’s also the thrashiest song you’ve done in recent memory. It’s got those swing-y kick patterns.
BJ- It’s punk rock.
BW- You mentioned “Ghosts of Grace”, which seems to be the song on Assassins that people—the stoner metal crowd at least—really latched onto. What’s the story of that song?
BJ- My house flooded and I lost my business and my girlfriend of nine years as a result of the financial woes that resulted. I watched my record label drown in my basement, uninsured. The storm took everything, the storm took all. Wading through water with an electric current still running, just trying to save it. A whole bunch of personal shit.
I never had to tell Chris to write that song; he wrote those lyrics about my life, unasked. He said it better than I could have said it myself.
I had a really cushy life from 21 to 25 because I was at the right place at the right time with a record label and then it all drowned in a day. I’ve been living very modestly since then to say the least.
BW- And that place is Chicago, where the scene is really growing [the entire bus points at Sanford] … OK! Let’s talk Chicago.
BJ- You talk about it, Sanford. You make all of Chicago’s good metal records.
SP- Chicago’s got some good bands right now. These guys are in a band called Lord Mantis [points to Charlie Fell and Andrew Markuszewski], He [Will] is in Indian. They have records coming out on Relapse and Candlelight. There’s my projects like Minsk and Circle of Animals. Chris is Dawnbringer and High Spirits—he plays everything. To me, Chicago is the hotbed of extreme music right now.
BW- I’m considering moving to Chicago for that very reason, which sounds stupid.
SP- I wouldn’t talk you out of it!
BW- Not a bad decision?
BJ- It’s really not.
SP- I’ve been all over the world and I haven’t found a city I like more than Chicago.
BJ- Same. We just put up with awful weather. People like me and Sanford could live just about anywhere on some level, and do what we do and still get away with it. No steady job. Probably everyone on this bus could because we’re all free spirits willing to travel. [To Sanford] you could do what you do anywhere and probably still make a comparable living, but the vibe of the city… It makes the music sound the way it does. We’re gonna make black metal Ministry on the next record. It’s gonna be Psalm 666.
[laughs all around]
Oh wow, that’s actually really good! You might actually. You got the scoop!
WL- Let’s do it.
SP- That’s great.
BJ- That’s the working title for now, anyways.
SP- It’ll definitely be way more industrial than what we’ve done before.
BW- That’s what the press said Addicts would be. I didn’t really hear that except for on “Blood Trance Fusion”. Funny title, I had to say it twice before I ‘got’ it.
BJ- Chris Black! Chris rules. I’m an ADD fuckin’ drugged-out scatterbrain in every facet of my life. Chris was the first person to be able to help me consolidate my ideas into cohesive pieces. Anybody making music that can reach people needs somebody involved to guide them in some way because any real artist is a fucking weirdo, and when left to their own devices can’t really [produce]. Imagine if I had that material from Assassins and any old engineer money could hire. These guys know what I’m trying to do and know damn well that I can’t do it by myself. I’m blessed to have these people around me.
When Sanford and I made Assassins we didn’t know one another super well—at least not like today, when if I ever saw anyone hit Sanford I’d cut them nowadays. We weren’t like that, but he was able to immediately step in and make me feel comfortable. I think he was more comfortable presenting his own ideas on Addicts than Assassins. He had that creative rope before but perhaps didn’t feel comfortable pulling until after a few sessions. I’m sure not all bands that come in to work with you want you to be more than an engineer.
BW- That sounds like family to me.
BJ- There was just an immediate respect, and as we’ve come to respect one another more creatively we’ve become more involved in what the other is doing in the studio, which is why I think we’re going to make better and better records together. And with whatever team we’re working with beyond that—hopefully these guys. Unless someone fucks up royally before the next record.
[band glares at one another comically]
BJ- I don’t think that’ll happen—it’s a pretty great group.
BW- So we have something in common, Blake.
BJ- Oh yeah?
BW- Word has it you love Ministry’s Filth Pig as well.
BJ- That is my favorite record ever recorded. That and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. Tied.
BW- …That is Nachtmystium right there, you can hear it.
BJ- That’s why Charlie, our drummer, and I connected immediately. He hasn’t been on a record yet because he’s been on tour. We connected at my house doing drugs and I put Filth Pig on and he was all ‘oh! I love this one!’ There’s three of the ten people who’ve ever lived that like Filth Pig right here right now. “Brick Windows” is the jam.
BW- More people should cover “Reload”. It’s such a fun song to play.
SP- “Game Show”.
BJ- We may cover “Lava”. That’d be awesome.
BW- I only have one more question. It’s kind of personal and dark, I apologize in advance. So you worked in Twilight with Wrest, and he did drums on Addicts…
BJ- Hah, I know where this is going.
SP- Oh yeah we do.
BJ- I was waiting for this.
BW- You were waiting? Then I won’t keep you. Please, talk, what’s up with the girl and the tattoo gun?
BJ- That situation is fucked.
SP- It’s total bullshit.
BJ- Total bullshit. Before you even ask, he didn’t do that. I saw a fight between him and that woman in my house before. It was the last confrontation they had. Drunk fucking retarded boyfriend-girlfriend fight. It was the last time they saw each other before that allegedly happened. I saw that woman beat her own head against the wall so that she would look beat up when the police showed up. He didn’t do anything to that woman.
Jef Whitehead is a fucking maniac, but he is not a rapist. He is not a criminal.
BW- What do you think will happen to him?
BJ- I think he’s got enough friends around him with enough money that he’s going to have the lawyers to get out of the mess that he’s in. And the fact that the woman pressing the charges has ten different cases on file of dropping rape charges against boyfriends is going to get him scott free if he has the right lawyer. You can be certain that his friends in Chicago and San Francisco and Oakland have been working together and communicating with one another to ensure that we have the money to help him out. Jeff is a good enough dude, despite his many faults, that we know we’ll get it back from him in one way or another. He’s family. He will not rot in jail if we do anything about it because he did not do that. I know because I saw them together and I watched what she did. And that’s all I have to say about that. He is my brother. I have known him for eight years and he did not do that. I know that for a fact.
All the photos accompanying this interview were taken by the very talented Alyssa Lorenzon at the New Jersey stop of this same Creatures From the Black Abyss tour with Cradle of Filth the week after this interview was conducted. These photos, and many more, originally appeared on MetalSucks here.
If you don’t know what BadWolf and Blake Judd were talking about at the end of the interview, you can read about the criminal charges against Jef Whitehead (a/k/a Wrest of Leviathan) here or here. Whitehead, Blake Judd, and Sanford Parker were members of a “super group” called Twilight that last year released a highly regarded (at least in some quarters) album called Monument To Time End.
Oh yeah, nearly forgot: Ministry put out an album in 1992 called Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed and the Way To Suck Eggs.