(On April 11, 2012, BadWolf interviewed Selim Lemouchi, the guitarist and composer for Dutch occult rock band The Devil’s Blood.)
Selim, the creative force behind The Devil’s Blood, loves to talk. His English really is eloquent, and, though it may not be clear from the interview below, he spends a great deal of time thinking before he answers a question. His responses echo the music he writes; both unfold in long passages that dwell on ugly subjects, but do so with lush beauty.
The first night of the Decibel Magazine tour, we spoke at length about Selim’s satanic beliefs, the role of music in religion, the American government’s war on terror, and the creative process behind making psychedelic doom metal/classic rock revival jams.
It’s your first date of the tour and you’re fresh now, clean of blood. How do you feel?
Not really clean yet. I haven’t had a shower in four or five days. Coming here and charging up for the tour was a really exhausting experience. A lot of financial issues needed to be taken care of. We all felt pretty tired and beat-up. From note one all of that was gone, and the powers that we seek to invoke became awakened in us immediately. So we ran with it—we ran with the wolves and howled at the moon and the moon answered. Tonight was an auspicious start to an auspicious tour.
This tour is groundbreaking in America because I don’t think i’ve seen a tour in my lifetime so dedicated to satanism.
It would have been ridiculous to do it any other way. For us to tour with bands we don’t respect in an ideological sense is something we would not look forward to, especially if it’s twenty-five or more events. We feel very strongly about what we’re saying, and I know for a fact the other bands feel very strongly about what they are saying. I’ve said in the past we disagree on many points and come together on many others. To be able to grant four unique entities a stage to transform into an altar is something that has been lacking in music for a long time. We’ve seen too many fashion statements, too many gimmick bands. Too many people only concerned with the bottom line. For us the only thing that is interesting is to speak with his words and see with his eyes and to use our hands to do his work. When that’s possible it’s a very blessed occasion.
One that springs to mind immediately is Saturnalia Temple from Sweden. Another could be Negative Plane from America. Sigh from Japan, Urfaust from Holland, who we’ve toured with several times but share a lot of our feelings toward many things. Ascension from Berlin. Katharsis don’t play live, sadly, neither do Teitanblood.
In regards to your ideology… you weren’t born a satanist, I don’t know that many people are. It seems to be something you’re introduced to.
I think it’s something you realize. Some people are born more free than others, I myself was not raised to be particularly free in my mind. So let’s say the seed that was always there wasn’t given the opportunity to germinate properly, and it took more time. I’m a perfect example, I’m thirty-one now and I’ve dedicated the part of my life from the mid-twenties on to this ideal. Everything before was searching without finding, being thrown into the arms of depression at regular intervals with everything that comes along with that. Leading a pointless and hollow life in a structured and ordered way. I needed to become fully aware of my potential to be a free person.
Take the guys from In Solitude who are at this point 21 or 22, one is even younger than that. They had the serendipitous occasion to be born into flesh that was already a little bit more free, or into an environment that allowed them to be… poisoned, let’s say, at the proper time in their lives. So, in a way they have a head start on me. It’s interesting to see people who could have been my little brothers by far—who are my little brothers in a way—becoming so active in this field, and growing so far-reaching in their thoughts and philosophies. It’s tremendously inspiring; I don’t begrudge other people the luck they have, and in my case I don’t even see my later development as something negative. That’s just the way it goes. And life is just one of the phases that we must go through.
When you say freedom do you mean freedom to act in this world or a more existential freedom.
Could you elaborate?
Freedom means to be free from judgment, free from the rules that you lay upon yourself, that society may lay upon you, or even that the universe lays on you. That last part is mostly experienced through magic and through ritual work, and the first part is something that you need to be able to do spiritually for yourself. To see your faults and accept them for what they are, and then to hone yourself to a point where you can side-step the problems that you create for yourself. Another point is to be willing and daring enough to set yourself part enough from society in a way that you can do as you please and gain what you want to gain.
For example, one could easily work a 9-5 job and be very happy and content with that if the job offered them the ability to do other things that they aspire to do. For example. lead a life of crime, or of complete and total inactivity—it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that does is it needs to be something that comes from the will—from the I of the self, not from what we have been told is ourselves, our egos or baser needs or desires for material wealth. Or our need to belong to a group or culture in any way. It’s being able to be a part of nothing, literally.
Literally? So when you say the laws of the universe you mean the laws of particle physics, of matter?
Where do these concepts of the mind (physics) and philosophy (metaphysics) meet for you? And how does music factor in?
That’s a very interesting question. Music factors in because it is the ultimate paradox: it is physics and mathematics, and it is rules, doctrine, and tradition. But at the same time music is capable of doing something that will set a person free from time, from place, and from the self because it transgresses these things. It creates within the mind the freedom to fantasize, to be completely free in the moment, inspired in a chaotic way by something that is ordered and structured. So I think our music stems from chaos, the darkness and nothingness is then crystalized into what we can hear, basically what we can play, repeat, record and sell, but the moment anyone listens to the music I have no control anymore of how it affects people or what happens. For better or for worse it becomes an influence on the lives of people exposed to it.
What I’m trying to say is even though we are bound to the world as it presents itself to us or how we interpret it—debate which of those is true—we are, in our minds, capable of negating these influences even in this world, for brief moments. You could call it a form of enlightenment, or damnation, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is how you perceive it, and how perception becomes reality.
As I recall you compose your music on an acoustic guitar.
But you play through all this technology, is there any issue with that transition for you?
No, because I can imagine if I were to translate my creative process into painting, I could imagine a painter sitting on the couch with a pencil and piece of paper doodling away, and for whatever reason that takes him to a concept. It’s rough, base, simple, totally not defined—that’s me on the acoustic guitar. Then the guy goes to his canvas, takes out his paint and begins to crystalize that rough idea into a perfected version, for lack of a better word. Perfection is emptiness and totally uninteresting, but you see what I mean. It’s more about having an ambition to make something into something. That’s me on my electric guitar and with my computer making a demo. When that’s done I’ll take the demo into the studio and go to work for real and make it so I think it’s good enough to release.
The reason we haven’t recorded any acoustic songs is because the songs I have been writing seem to want to be played on the electric guitar. But there’s no saying what might happen in the future in that respect. We do have some ideas that aren’t necessarily fit for the way The Devil’s Blood have been doing things up to this point. I try not to repeat myself too much, my creativity seems to meander, so maybe in a few years everything will be on piano, who knows.
You played tonight at the sight of a tragedy—I don’t hear any Pantera in The Devil’s Blood, but at the same time there is a sort of kinship.
When I was younger, and I’m talking in 1996, when they put out the Far Beyond Driven album, I was a big fan. And he was an extremely talented musician, but my concepts of death and life differ too much from the norm to say I mourn anyone’s death. I think he got dealt a shitty hand, definitely, but we grow when we are taken and there was probably a reason for what happened. That I cannot see it or understand it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I try not to look on death as something tragic. I believe in liberation, so who knows how grand what’s happening to him now is? I think to have lived a life with extreme accomplishments and to be able to have reached so many people… maybe the price we pay for that is tragedy, and maybe that’s a nice balance.
I saw you last year when you toured with Watain in Cleveland, and they aren’t here today. Can you comment on that turn of events?
I was in Stockholm the day before yesterday to rehearse with Watain because on this tour I will most likely be the second guitar player. The emotions ran pretty high there, there was a lot of anger and resentment. I don’t want to get into names, but there are people responsible for these problems that have been created, and they are not within the band, let me tell you that first off. There was a tremendous amount of frustration to not being able to just go do it, and instead stay on the sidelines while the war is being waged. For me personally, being as close to the bands as I am allowed to be, I feel a bit of sadness to miss them and not be able to perform our rituals in conjunction with theirs. We have performed many times with Watain, and those nights were always special for everyone involved. We just hope they will be here as soon as possible so we can get on with it. We’ve tried today to alot a little more time for ourselves and In Solitude; we’ve dedicated certain portions of our rituals to them, so that they might be granted the strength and fortitude to get their asses over here really quick!
We feel frustrated that they are not here, but we understand that these things happen; life is nothing if not an uphill struggle in many different areas, this is just one of them.
Yeah, it’s frustrating. I spent about one and one half hours in a line trying to get through O’Hare. I don’t think I have to say anything else, that was extremely retarded!
I actually had to maintain a little bit off… my idea was to walk up to one of these security guards and tell them that all this excessive time they spent being impotent, which is really what they’re doing, actually means that the terrorists won. And nobody wants to recognize this fact, but they are enveloping themselves so completely in fear, paranoia, and ludicrous self-worth that… It gets to me in a way. There is no such thing as safety, there is no such thing as being prepared for every eventuality. People should learn that to live long in fear is dying a slow death. It’s better to blaze on and do what you want to do, and don’t be so concerned with what everyone else does.