Interview by Sage.
A Death Cinematic is a shadowy American artist whom has been experimenting for a number of years now in the realm of instrumental and improvisational droning guitar ambient/noise. His nature is one of anonymity, refusing to give out a name or a face in the time that he has been operating under the A Death Cinematic moniker. This self-imposed artistic isolation has led him to release many of his works on his own label, Simple Box Construction, but a few split releases can currently be found with other labels, including Small Doses’ release with Ekca Liena, and the Great Falls split that is available on Dead Accents.
Strangely though, it isn’t A Death Cinematic’s music that makes him special, although it does have its own unique sound. It is his dedication to the DIY style of releasing music, and the effort and craftsmanship that he puts into those releases. Where some happily do a simple screen print or fold some paper and declare their release “DIY”, A Death Cinematic spends what must take hours upon hours of painstaking planning and labor to put together heavy, functioning wood-cut, finished, and printed albums, often with unique ways of housing the CD and utilizing space for design. This is work that takes months to finish up, something that should up the expectation level for any project declaring their music to be the same.
Pt. I: The Music
Heathen Harvest: Hello and thank you for accepting this interview! Could you begin by telling us where you came up with the name A Death Cinematic?
A Death Cinematic: Hello. It is my pleasure and thank you for having me.
The name, A Death Cinematic, is a line from a poem I have written and lost a while ago. The poem was about the potential and scale of humanity’s demise.
HH: Have you attempted to relocate the poem that the name is based off of? Fans of your music would obviously be interested in this.
ADC: I looked everywhere. i even tried to rewrite it but that is never the same. Rewriting that or any other poem, for that matter, never recaptures the immediacy and urgency of the language. The mood and feeling of the writing is changed forever.
It still might show up, there are stacks of papers, drawings, sketches, other writings, etc. all over my studio. It could very well be that it is somewhere in an old notebook.
HH: Do you ever think you’ll make available much of your artwork / writings in published form or as an archive website online? It seems that this is an important side of your art that few people get to see.
ADC: Yes, I have a blogspot that has a lot of my poems on it. There are some older ones and I keep adding new ones. Although I have not added any new ones for over a month because I got busy trying to get the album released but I’ll be adding some news ones soon. The name of that blog is SLUMBERING IN THE FIRES. As far as the visual art, I plan on having some kind of site to archive some of the art. The only thing I have right now is a facebook photo album. But it is very limited, I would like to have something a little nicer.
HH: Due to the nature behind the name, would you say you consider yourself a misanthropist? Or is it more of a visionary expression rather than a personal one?
ADC: I do not consider myself a misanthrope. I have a facebook page. I do not believe a true misanthrope would use social media networks. I also rely on an audience to complete the cycle of creation. So it is more of a visionary expression.
I would say that it is more of a personal observation and bewilderment about humanity. We do a lot of things that don’t make sense to me. I do a lot of things that don’t make sense to me. I see our (mine included) contradictory behavior pushing us into an apocalypse. I just try to express it as best as I can.
HH: When you say you “rely on an audience to complete the cycle of creation”, what exactly are you speaking of?
ADC: What I mean by that is that making this stuff in the basement might be fulfilling to me but is really not completed until there is someone there to perceive it and, in a way, judge it or interact with it on some level. I think it was Roland Barthes that talked about a writer needing a reader to finish the work. I believe he talked about it as the death of the author because as the reader in the act of reading essentially removes the author and replaces him/ her. (It had been a while since I’ve read those books and essays so my memory is a bit fuzzy.) The basic concept is that a created work needs to be absorbed or viewed by someone to fulfill it and give it meaning. That is also a reason why I try to keep my themes kind of open ended or at least with enough room for the listener to complete it. I try to guide the listener but not spell out every idea or emotion they might encounter. It is a fragile balance, on the one hand you run the risk of being heavy handed and trite and on the other, the risk of incomprehensible or nonsensical vagueness.
HH: What are your thoughts on projects that use the term to describe themselves or their music and still remain part of the social networking world?
ADC: My thoughts or impressions on those projects are that I understand it to be a schtick. It is geared to appeal to a specific sub culture but the fact that it appeals to another human being or is intended to somehow relate to another human being is by its very essence not misanthropic. Especially when such a project uses a social media network to promote itself. I think those projects would better be described as antisocial or anti-societal. (Even these terms are not completely accurate but they are a bit closer.) Where there is an inability or unwillingness to participate in society but it is done so begrudgingly. To me a misanthrope would have such a disdain and hatred for the human species that he or she would not want to be involved in any type of human activity i.e. music making, ritualistic behavior, and or networking through the internet. I try to base these impressions on using the terms in their most essential and accurate form.
HH: Why have you chosen to remain a completely anonymous figure, other than simply having no interest to involve your personal life with your music?
ADC: When it comes to this work I feel that my identity is not important. It contributes very little to the meaning or the message of the work I am trying to do. In fact it might unnecessarily color the work. If it became known that I was the front man of a really popular late ’80 hard rock group, it would change how my work would be perceived. People would view and listen to the work with pre-disposed filters. My anonymity is an attempt at removing as many of those filters as possible.
i also like the fact that this stuff i do could just come from nowhere or anywhere or done by anyone. Maybe in that sense it helps the work to be more universal.
HH: Since you lack a name or photograph for your fans to mentally catalog, can you tell us a little about yourself personally? What is important to you as a person outside of art and music? Basically, in a nutshell, what makes you…you?
ADC: That is tough to answer since art and music is a huge part of who I am. I like self reliance. I like solitude but i also love my family and the very few friends I have. My wife always tells me that i must have been raised by wolves because I often lack social grace.
I also like anything DIY. I try to do as many things myself as I can. Whether it is changing the oil in my car to building furniture. I like things made of wood and sometimes metal. I like books and the printed page.
I detest e-readers and the download culture. I also detest anyone with a sense of entitlement or self importance.
HH: You’ve made it pretty well known that you’re a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s writings, but what other authors have influenced you and why?
ADC: I read a lot. Every chance I get and I read a variety of books. From philosophy to aesthetic and linguistic theory, to physics and eastern thought. The list is quite long and different things influence me for different reasons. However, fiction is by far what I read the most of. Some of the main or biggest influences as far as fiction and poetry is concerned are Bukowski, Borges, Garcia Marquez, Larry Brown, Carver, Childish, Celine, Melville and many many others. Some others that come to mind at this moment are Kant, Arnheim, Nietzsche, Foucault.
As to why or how these and other writers have influenced me is an answer that time and space does not permit me to get into at the moment. Not to mention that the answer is a fluid and a shape shifting one.
HH: Likewise, as a very visual-based musician, what artists from visual mediums have influenced A Death Cinematic or just you personally?
ADC: From the visual mediums, such as sculpture and painting etc., there are a few that were and are a huge influence. These might be a little dated because I have not been keeping up on the current and major developments in the Art World. In this way the visual art influences are different than my musical influences since music is something I keep up on.
Anyway, some of the bigger visual arts influences would be Kiefer, Boltanski, Robert Frank, Beuys, Duchamp, Rembrandt, Durer and many more.
HH: How different is your taste in music, art and literature now than it was, say, ten years ago? Who helped shape you as an artist growing up?
ADC: I’m sure my tastes have changed but I don’t see that they did. They have evolved but I don’t feel like I have left anything behind or exchanged one set of aesthetic sensibilities for another. To me it seems seamless. I know I was very much into surrealism when I was a teenager and am not into it so much anymore. I was also into a lot of metal and hardcore through my mid to late teens. Not so much now. I still listen to that stuff every so often but I’m not seeking out new artists like i used to.
As I was growing up I guess father did most of the shaping of my artistic development. Then it was my need to tear down all that shaping and strike out on my own.
HH: Nick Cave (with Warren Ellis) is a name that comes up again and again in your previous interviews. Why did this soundtrack (to “The Proposition”) affect you so strongly?
ADC: That is hard to say. I’m not so sure that it wasn’t the film that did most of the affecting. I mean I am a big fan of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and their soundtrack work. Nick Cave has always been an influence across a myriad of mediums. I think he is one hell of a writer and the fact that he wrote the screen play for The Proposition is really what got me into that film. But what John Hillcoat did with it and then the soundtrack, it all just really gelled. The whole package just became an instant classic.
HH: Some people might call your music ‘Lynchian’ because of the overwhelmingly surreal elements surrounding it. Is David Lynch a moderate part of your cinematic exposure?
ADC: David Lynch is more than a moderate part of my cinematic exposure. He is a pretty significant influence not just cinematically speaking but also creatively. I really enjoy how he approaches the act of creating not just the films but also all the other forms of art. He is pretty well rounded as an artist and he is not afraid to do things himself. It is too bad that he has not released any films lately.
HH: Have any relatively new artists blown you away lately?
ADC: Certainly, there has been quite a few and most of them musical. These are not in any order of preferance. Locrian, Horseback, Mamiffer, Sutekh Hexen, Barn Owl, Great Falls, Kinit Her, and of course a number of others.
HH: You’ve described your writing process as being largely improvised. Has your process remain unchanged throughout your various recordings, or have you evolved it to a different version of its former self?
ADC: I would hope that I and my process have evolved. One of the most terrifying things for me as an artist is becoming stagnant. The basic tenants of my process are unchanged but I believe I have become better at the act of improvisation. With a bigger skill set and more experience, I am getting better at how I record and for what reasons. The earlier recordings have a lot in them. I was trying out a lot of different sounds and other techniques that were very new to me and I wanted to include as much as I could in each track.
Now, I feel I am better at reserving what I put down, where, and when. I try to let the sounds within the track have more breathing room. Some of that comes down to mixing and mastering. I am a little better now at cutting out things or leaving them out. Each day I am learning more about the guitar as an instrument and about mixing mastering and engineering. In all these things I am self taught and there are pitfalls in that. I sometimes find that my new discovery is nothing more than a reinvention of the wheel that somebody has already discarded.
HH: You had mentioned in a previous interview that you’d be focusing on building a new studio / work space. Did you succeed in this, and if so, what have you updated?
ADC: Yes, the work space is completed and almost completely unpacked and organized. This is not a recording studio in any true sense of the word. It is just my gear and an 8 track recorder and a lot of cabinets and work surfaces for doing and storing the visual stuff and materials. As far as recording gear, I have not updated anything really. I would like to do some more sound proofing so I can play around with mic placement and that kind of stuff.
We’ll see, right now my budget is very limited.
HH: Your track titles are typically more expansive than traditional track titles. Do you do this to help develop a story line for the listener due to the lack of vocals / lyrics?
ADC: Yes and no. I do it so the listener has some sort of a guide as to where we will be traveling and where these might have come from but not because there is a lack of vocals. The absence of vocals or lyrics helps to bring out the desolation. Although the way Matt reads his poem on THE NEW WORLD really adds a sense of desolation to that track. So I don’t know. I guess it depends on the context and in the future, who knows, there might be a lot more vocals and maybe even singing. I try not to rule anything out.
HH: Your book editions that accompany some releases are incredibly limited — are there any plans to make these available in the digital realm or at least make second editions / larger quantities for future releases?
ADC: As of yet there are no plans for second editions or digital versions of those books. I am not opposed to the idea i just have not had much time to think about it or to make any plans.
HH: The split with Great Falls took a while to come out — what caused the delay with this release? Did it bother you to have simplistic packaging for this release as it was put out on the other artist’s label?
ADC: The delays for that split are not known to me and I’m not concerned with why. Sometimes things take a long time and the reasons are unavoidable. I am pleased that it is finally out and just think of it as it was in the nature of this release to come out now. The “simplistic” packaging does not bother me. I am grateful that Dead Accents or any other label wants to work with me. They have budgets that allows them to do or not do certain things. It is beyond my control. Having something come out on a different label between the simple box releases helps in the sense that people are not waiting 2 or 3 years between my releases. The stuff i do with the simple box construction releases takes a long time. Sometimes years from start to finish.
HH: On the other end of the spectrum, Joe Beres over at Small Doses continued your tradition of unique packaging with the Ekca Liena split. How did you come to work with Small Doses as well as Ekca Liena for this release?
ADC: The idea for the split came from Dan the man behind Ekca Liena. We have been talking about a split for a long while at that time. He is a highly motivated individual and once we got the music in order he was all over this release. I approached some labels and Small Doses responded. Joe was very accommodating as far as what we could do with the cover. I was busy working on the YOUR FATE… ep so Dan did all the layout and design for the cover, he did an excellent job. I contributed a photo and the guillotine drawing and he put it all together and Joe approved and put up the money.
HH: There was some talk of a split / collaboration with the Belgian project Sequences late last year. What became of this?
ADC: As far as I know that project is still on. I am working to finish up THE NEW WORLD release and I’m sure we’ll be talking and planning for it soon. But before I start giving definitive answers I’ll have to check with Niels to make sure.
HH: Your Fate Twisting, Epic in its Crushing Moments was indeed epic in its own rights, with perhaps the most painstaking DIY effort that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing to date after 5 years of writing for Heathen Harvest. How lond did it take you to design and perfect the construction for the EP?
ADC: Thank you. The design and planning aspect of any project doesn’t really take me very long. I make changes as I go and start to fabricate the mock up cover. As I realize the theme for the release, the visual aspects start to fall into place as I plan out the cover and gather or make the visual resources. This EP came together relatively quickly. What always takes the longest is the fabrication of all the copies for the edition. It is hard to give a definite time because a lot of things are in a state of flux and happen simultaneously when I’m recording or mastering tracks.
HH: Are you worried about the ability to follow up something that involved with the new full-length, The New World?
ADC: No, my worries lie elsewhere. I mean I always question my abilities but as far as planning something more involved that is not the problem, so far. I worry more about whether I will have enough time or resources to make a larger edition. Whether people care about it enough or is it even worthwhile to make such elaborate releases. And also, whether my ideas are aesthetically good enough to justify such monumental effort.
HH: Can you give us some insight into this new release? What can listeners expect with The New World?
ADC: This release was long time in the making. The music has been ready for quite some time. I do feel like I have broken some new ground with the sounds. It is sometimes hard to tell because since, I have recorded a lot of new tracks. And as far as the packaging is concerned, a lot of planing went into this release. Everything took a long time to print, organize and now to fabricate.
HH: Are there any plans to finally branch out and play live, perhaps in celebration of the release of this album?
ADC: I have been tentatively planing to play live ever since the beginning of A Death Cinematic. i just can’t seem to get my shit together when it comes to this. Something always gets in the way and i am a bit of a recluse and getting out there to find venues is not an easy thing for me to do.
HH: Finally, what are your current plans for the project after The New World? Will you be implementing any new gear in the near future?
ADC: There are plenty of plans for projects after The New World. I have enough material recorded for another two albums. One of which might be released as a cassette on a different label. The other is already in the advanced planing stages. I have a theme for the album and plans for the covers. All the tracks have been selected. Aside from that there is talks with numerous artists for various splits and/ or collaborations. I also have several non musical project editions to finish up and finally get out there.
Pt. II: The Label
HH: Why have you chosen the name “Simple Box Construction” for your label when your releases are obviously far from simply constructed?
ADC: Simple box construction is a name in reference to the old pine box, the cheap and simple coffin used to bury poor people. I first used the name 12 or 13 years ago when I did an edition of hand-bound books, I used it as the name under which I published the edition. Even then I new that none of the things released under simple box construction will really be simply constructed but I really enjoyed and still enjoy the irony between the name of the label and what it puts out.
HH: So far you’ve only released music from your personal project A Death Cinematic, of course with some splits and collaborations with other artists. Are there any plans to release music from other musicians in the future?
ADC: There are no plans to do any releases strictly for other artists. I would love to be able to do that but I just don’t have the time or the money to do it the way I would want to. Realizing how long it takes to fabricate some of these editions I just don’t see it happening.
HH: What makes up your decision whether to seek another label to put out an A Death Cinematic-related release or to release it yourself under Simple Box Construction?
ADC: When it comes to just a death cinematic releases I don’t seek out other labels. Not anymore. If a label came to me with an offer I would definitely consider it but that doesn’t happen so I don’t worry about it. When I do splits with other artists they will usually have an idea to put it out on a different label or it might be a timing issue where they won’t want to wait for simple box construction to put it out.
HH: Have you ever considered branching out as a free-lance artist to help design packaging for DIY labels or artists?
ADC: Yes, I thought about it and even had some inquires to fabricate covers for other bands or labels but my ideas become very cost prohibitive. For me to make covers becomes real expensive because i would have to charge something for my time to do this. When i release things for myself i don’t make anything for my time. I have yet to turn a profit from my releases. I supplement the cost with my other full time job.
HH: Are there any larger plans in general for the short term future of the label, or will it continue on as it always has?
ADC: Right now it will continue on this path but I am always open to new opportunities. So who know what might happen several months from now.
HH: Please feel free to use this last bit of space to say whatever you feel you need to. Thank you again for answering our questions!
ADC: No problem. I would like to thank you and Heathen Harvest for this interview. I would also thank all the people who have supported and continue to support me and my projects. I couldn’t do this without them. Thank you for reading and shelling out your hard earned cash. DIY or die.