(Comrade Aleks is back, and brings with him a snake, or rather an interview with Snake McRuffkin, vocalist of the Dutch band The Spirit Cabinet, whose members come from other well-respected extreme bands and whose debut album appeared last August.)
Can you imagine that could happen if you gathered in one rehearsal place a guitarist from a black/thrash band (Zwartketterij), a drummer from a doom metal band (Hooded Priest), a bass player from a black metal band (Cirith Gorgor), and a vocalist from another black metal band (Urfaust)? Okay, here’s the answer – bloody impressive heavy doom metal with influences from all the above-mentioned bands and damned good dark lyrics on spiritualistic topics.
The Spirit Cabinet consists of four members – Erich Vilsmeier, Cromwell Fleedwood, Johnny Hällström, and Snake McRuffkin — who came to an understanding of what they wanted, and their first full-length record Hystero Epileptic Possessed was born in a pretty natural way just a year after they gathered for the first time.
It saw the light with the help of Ván Records, and I feel myself inspired and enlightened enough to bring the Word of The Spirit Cabinet further to those who thirst for knowledge and some mental pabulum. During a midnight séance Snake McRuffkin shared his experience of playing in this band.
Hail mister Snake! The Spirit Cabinet is a new name for most of our readers, but all of it members play in bands which are pretty famous — Cirith Gorgor, Urfaust, Zwartketterij, and Hooded Priest. How did you all gather and come to a decision for such a collaboration?
We have been friends for a very long time and played in several bands with each other, so it went quite naturally that we were having a drink together one day and ended up jamming. Hällström had already written the main riffs of “The Black Lodge” and soon more songs followed. We didn’t have any expectations, but we liked what we heard and everyone felt comfortable in this musical reunion.
It seems — considering your first record Hystero Epileptic Possessed — that you already had a general vision of the band when you started it, a whole conception. So how was it?
We had no clue what we were going to do, it just evolved in this record. We let ourselves be surprised by the moment, when we plan things they always obscure a little bit. We do not think too much about the music, but just let it happen.
And who’s that dude on The Spirit Cabinet logo?
He is the symbol of the ancient quest for gaining knowledge for those who cannot reach that final stage of putting the transparent vacuum of the intellect aside and go from there. People do crazy thing to get to that final stage.
The man in the logo is “The Professor”. He is a clairvoyant in a carnival who has given up his eyesight to sharpen his senses. You see these kind of people in spiritual countries like India, they cover their eyes for three months to sharpen the other senses. The man in the logo is a blind magician, who drinks absinthe and thinks the hallucinogens and the alcohol might give him the uttermost visions of the other sides, but the only thing he learns is that his mind is playing tricks on him and he is the fool of his own imagination.
It’s an interesting image indeed… Then how do you see The Spirit Cabinet’s entire mission, as metal music in itself often represents a form of escapism?
Not only to escape things, but to define things. It all has to do with one’s perception and how we see the world. The things we see with our perception has been, most of the time, different and more specific to certain themes than other people. Very few people we know have perception in the spirit world, and since we have that, we see it as a mission to channel that through music.
The Spirit Cabinet – The Black Lodge
The first song which opens the album is “The Black Lodge”, and it has elements of epic heavy, doom metal and even some black metal parts. I guess that it’s a feature of the whole album, so how did you craft this blend?
It blended itself, it is a mixture of the music we all are devoted to for so many years now. Everybody is a child of their surroundings. We listened so intensely to the music we grew up with, that we became that music, it’s in our DNA. So for us it is natural to switch from epic Doom to Heavy Metal and evolve in Black Metal.
Do you like the sound you got on Hystero Epileptic Possessed enough to compose and continue the next record in that vein? Or do you want to change some elements on the next album?
It will be in the same vein, but we want to sharpen the songs more, combine a lot of different styles in the song structures, and blend it into something that sounds natural. Music is not, and never will be, perfect or absolute, but we enjoy the sound and the façade it’s providing us.
How long did you work over these songs? And do you have a mastermind in the band or do you work together all the time sharing equal parts in the composing and producing of the song?
Hällström is the songwriter, he makes the music, and he does a lot of thinking and calculation in his guitar riffing and song structures. Fleetwood adds the drums, and Vilsmeier plays along in the best way he finds suitable. Hällström tells McRuffkin in which parts he wishes the vocals, and he tries to sing the parts in a way he thinks tones have never been sung before, like a dissonant voyage of notes.
We have put a lot of work and effort into the record to compose it in something explosive to a tone piece we consider to be quite original.
It looks like Hällström rules The Spirit Cabinet with an iron hand! Did you have some moments of furious disputes during the recording session?
Never. The four of us are furious in being, but we do not direct that to other people or situations. We dealt the cards in the beginning of this outfit in who does what in the band, and there is no room for ego nor experiment. We live by that code, we have the same rules that would apply for a gang of thugs, or as we like to see ourselves, as an old-fashioned mafia group.
Everybody has the same position in the band and we respect that. We have known each other for a long time now and are very comfortable with the fact that Hällström makes the songs. We consider it a pleasure listening to his guitar riffing and his bringing up, what we consider to be, brilliant and well-thought song structures.
Besides that, did you record the album in a studio all together or did you work separately? Which way is more suitable and effective for you?
We recorded the album all together, so that we have the same spirit when we play the songs together live. The recordings must have the same intensity as the live performances.
Can you tell about stories you told in your songs? What influenced you when you wrote the texts?
The texts are based on our real life experiences with the paranormal. It also is a history lesson of telling stories about people’s conflicts with the occult over the centuries.
Snake, I suppose that it has something in common with your band Urfaust, which is named after an old legend that was retold by Goethe… Okay, there are only six songs on the album, so forgive me my curiosity but I would like to ask you to comment on the lyrics for all of them. Can you?
Off course we will.
“The Black Lodge” tells about people with epilepsy and hysteria; electricity is a very powerful element of our existence as human beings, and in its different manifestations. The mind is a very powerful thing when used right, but most people do not have control over it. Everyone believes they act on a very high consciousness, but if you would put them to the test, they will fail miserably. The nature of the mind is such, it can deceive you till the end.
“Credulity” is about believing a lot of things to be true, while there is no physical nor scientific explanation to back them up, the things that will make people outsiders like us eventually.
“The Spirit Cabinet” is about sound not lyrics, but that is a long story that will be told on our website when the time is there.
“Hexenhaus” is about a drunkard’s experience in a haunted house; he is a magnet for the paranormal but he does not know that. This specific one is about a nasty poltergeist staying in a house where he was sleeping over for the night while being drunk (for those who are familiar with poltergeists, it was the kind who can mimic sounds and is hostile to its environment). The man thought it was a good idea to put up some kind of séance with the entity, which turned out wrong and he got physically attacked by it, having scratches in his face. The next morning everybody blamed the whole experience on the alcohol.
“Ramakrishna” is about devotion. A devotee should never ask anything from the thing he is devoted to, but just be ecstatic in its presence. Ramakrishna was a Kali worshipper and was ecstatic when he sat with the image of the Mother; if he would not sit with her he would cry like a baby. We have learned that kind of devotion suitable for the things we are devoted to. It is a metaphor for our spiritual path. There is no path at the end, there is no particular way to get there, one has to either jump or fall into a bottomless pit; they say unless you are willing to fall upward you won’t get there.
“Convulsions” is about the state between a deep sleep and the moment you wake up, that is a time when other forces have some grip over you. The difference between the conscious and the subconscious, and that moment we switch between them. The border of sanity and insanity we all balance on.
The Spirit Cabinet – Hexenhaus
Do you care about good lyrics? And do you have favorite metal lyrics?
Hell yeah, there are some good lyrics out there. We like especially the ones which have these obscure dances of Dadaistic words in which you can find your own explanation and meanings.
Don’t you think that such terms as Death, Sin, Devil, and Occultism just go down in value and depreciate as it turns to just another form of popular music? Requirements for lyrics seem to be low, as it is rather noire primitive than Dadaistic.
This has to do with human perception. To see the world in its true state you must totally ignore your mind, which is a garbage can of impressions. When we use Dadaistic art for the band, it leaves room for everybody’s own interpretation, which is always the best interpretation you can have. We are very fond of words, words with strong meanings, we use them as archetypes in a bizarre work of art as much music does.
Is The Spirit Cabinet a temporary project for you or do you see it as a full-time band? How serious and ambitious about it are you?
The Spirit Cabinet is a full-time band, and we put a lot of work and effort in that. We are serious about our music. The ambition is to go places and play the music in the future, but we are patient and we will see where it will be going from here.
Do you plan to play gigs with The Spirit Cabinet?
The devil will only come into your house when you invite him. We have been invited to play gigs in 2016. We will play gigs only on invitation; we are not going to promote ourselves in any other way. If people wish to see us, they can ask us to play, and if we like the offer we will be there with bells on. If not, we stay at home.
I have a personal question for Cromwell – when is Hooded Priest going to return? Or have you totally left Luther with his Chilean friends in King Heavy?
Cromwell Fleetwood: Hooded Priest is going strong as always; Luther is a creative force who works with a couple of bands in which he puts a part of his soul. He has a big soul and enough mojo for all the bands he is involved in. A new Hooded Priest album is coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
Next question is to Erich – Cirith Gorgor have announced the release of a new album in 2016. What will it be?
Erich Vilsmeier: The new Cirith Gorgor opus Visions of Exalted Lucifer will be released in February 2016 through Hammerheart Records. The seven featured songs constitute an occult journey into the depths of our depraved minds, and the intense brutality of the compositions will tear your soul apart. This is by far the darkest and most extreme, yet most diversely entertaining Cirith Gorgor release so far and it will blow your mind to pieces. As simple as that…
And Snake… I bet you know what I am going to ask. But I’m going to tell it anyway – when will we finally get a new full-length Urfaust album?!
In 2016 Urfaust is planning to finish their new record.
Thank you Snake for your time. I like how the interview has turned out and I hope that our readers dig it too. How would you like to resume our séance?
We thank you for the interest in our band. Having people interested in the same thematic that we are devoted to is always a great pleasure. We have a strong connection with a lot of people over the world and people like you who put the words in the open are to be thanked for that.