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Blood and Ash; an Interview with New Neofolk Project Night Profound

Night Profound

Night Profound

.:.BLOOD AND ASH.:.

An Interview with Night Profound

by S. L. Weatherford

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Unless you’ve been absolutely refusing to pay attention over the last few years, you’ll have noticed that neofolk has rooted itself in North American soil in a big way through young projects that range from Blood & Sun and Kinit Her to Et Nihil and Black Light.  Among this new generation of artists leading a meaningful and redefining charge for the genre is Vancouver’s Night Profound: a duo comprised of S.P Hache and R. Scythe Bearer who pay homage to their predecessors while remaining dedicated to dissolving genre boundaries.  Having recently shared the stage with Death in June, released a collaborative tape with Crooked Mouth on Brave Mysteries, and being slated to release their debut MLP on King Dude’s Not Just Religious Music, the project is ablaze with inspiration in their infancy and will soon be a much-celebrated name in post-industrial music.  We had the chance to speak with S.P Hache about the project’s beginnings, purpose, and recent developments below.

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Heathen Harvest: Good evening, and thank you for accepting this interview. Any project who seriously takes giving their music meaning typically puts a lot of thought behind their name.  That said, and at the risk of starting this out with the most cliché interview question available to me, what is behind “Night Profound”?

S.P Hache: I started making music that emulated my favourite apocalyptic folk bands in 2007. The result of which ended up sounding like pale Death in June worship, but nonetheless the project was initiated as a solo endeavour under another name. When the decision was made to take things to the next step and forge a serious identity, I knew I had to level everything and start from the ground up. A new name was needed.

At the time, I was in an extremely chaotic place in my life. Nothing seemed to align and everything was at opposition with me. It was more than just a slump. Something greater beyond me was at work. The moment I discovered the concept of the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. it hit me harder than anything up to that moment in my life. After digging deep into my own spiritual practice, I had hit a wall. It all made perfect sense! This was the identity I was seeking. This would dictate my personal artistic direction. After some research into the origins, the subsequent spiritual traditions that adopted it, and the philosophy surrounding this great and terrible time, I discovered the Latin term ‘Nox Profunda’. After a crude and literal translation, Night Profound was born.

The project as it exists now has evolved from a solo operation into a duo that consists of myself and R. Scythe Bearer—and ultimately our expanded collective. It has undergone a great evolution into the spiritual juggernaut it now represents. As the project evolved, the meaning of the name took on new and more expansive significance. My personal ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ had passed, and the next step of ascension took formation. This symbolism was reinterpreted through our studies of the Nightside. The Night became the time when the most overtly profound activities took place. Night is a time of accomplishment and congregation, shaping the sound and the direction of the music as it currently exists.

Night Profound

Night Profound

HH: You describe yourselves as “Chthonic Neofolk.”  While most will understand the outside meaning of this phrase, would you mind elaborating on it?

SH: Obviously we are making music from a ‘neofolk’ paradigm. However, we never fully resonated with the ‘political’, traditional, or philosophical material that dominates the genre as we know it. While it is all highly appreciated, it wasn’t something we wanted to replicate or ape. As an intensely personal project, Night Profound had to reflect what is truly lived and breathed. The intention was to always have a spiritual direction.

Literally, this term means ‘of the underworld’, and since we are motivated by a sinister current and practice, the conclusion should be obvious. Without going into too much detail, all of our collaborators are tied to this method of thinking and being. No matter what forms it may take, musically or artistically in some other form, all the people involved in Night Profound manifest dark, strongly numinous art whether within the project or apart.

HH: Can you discuss your music influences?  What has brought you to this point?

SH: The mutual love for all things in the post-industrial genre have propelled us to this point. As it is widely known at this stage, everyone involved in the project is also deeply rooted in extreme metal, be it black or death metal. This seemingly dual musical taste has existed within both of us as far back as our adult lives stretch. Night Profound is the result of an overwhelming need to create a deeper music to express another dimension of the personality that metal music could never properly touch upon.

We aren’t about to mention a list of bands as that should be clear when you listen to our music. Influence comes from music that has absolutely no limits, made by those who are unafraid to explore anything and push their own boundaries. The only goal is to create the best music possible with zero consideration for genre constrictions. Evolution must be constant and each iteration must eventually be shed. Take a band like Ulver or Dead Can Dance: no restrictions whatsoever and they are clearly not the same band they started out as. We want to think like them.

It is more important to evolve and produce challenging and meaningful work than anything. Our practice is to destroy the ego. There is no ego driving this music. We want to always be willing to try anything and discard what doesn’t directly serve us. Right now we are developing a sound, but the future is an exciting, formless landscape.

HH: Though you perform live as a trio, quartet, or even quintet, your listed line-up only contains two individuals.  Do you plan to remain a duo for the immediate future?  What do each of you bring to the table?

SH: R. Scythe Bearer and I are the two main members at the core of everything and function as directors of the project. More members are necessary for an expansive sound that we want to achieve, but Night Profound is the two of us, and it will remain as such. However, in the studio and live almost everything is collaborative. Just like the great ones before us, we want our cast of devils to be a revolving door of fresh perspectives and like-minds.

Both of our backgrounds are strikingly similar, but specifically the musical and esoteric vantage points we occupy are diverse. Where the two meet is just the beginning of where inspiration springs from, as the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. We both lack musical training of any sort and rely on basic knowledge gained through experience, but it is in spite of this that we are not afraid to explore seemingly illogical territory. Having mainly written unrelenting, aggressive music, it becomes a true challenge to write what we write. There is a raw honesty that comes from a person and their acoustic guitar, and it becomes a new filter for the same approach.

Lyrically, we work in a very unique way. Both of us come from a very strong academic background with years of personal spiritual study and experience. A great deal of research goes into the words, complete with references and footnotes. R. and I have a real and strong relationship with the foci of our songs that can only be achieved over time through actual practice.

Night Profound | Credit: Shane Lange

Night Profound | Credit: Shane Lange

HH: Up until now, your primary focus has been as a member of a fairly well-known death metal project.  Has it been difficult to get accustomed to performing live in an acoustic setting?

SH: Surprisingly it came very naturally. The only major obstacle was developing and finding comfort in my singing voice. In fact, prior to 2013, R. had never played an acoustic guitar nor had he ever sung a note. But I started playing acoustic music long before ever touching a guitar in a metal band. As I mentioned before, the two musical currents have existed alongside one another in each of us since the beginning.

It is a world that I have been connected to for all of my adult life, and finally being involved with this genre and scene has been the greatest feeling of personal triumph. For years this felt like an untouchable world of potency. The key players have always occupied a god-like status in my mind. I make this music because I have to. It is something that represents a huge part of my personality, and it had to finally manifest. This music represents me as equally as my extreme metal work. The union of opposites, and thus the wholeness of my musical vision.

HH: The primary theme surrounding the project appears to be one that has been deeply inspired by the occult.  Can you tell us the specific ways that Night Profound pays homage to your beliefs?

SH: More than just inspiration, all of the music, lyrics, and aesthetics of Night Profound are directly a result of devote action in the name of Death. It permeates right down to the structure of our releases. Different songs often focus on different paradigms wholly, rather than blending two or more forces which, in actuality, do not and should not blend. In this way, we pay homage to the real and physical forces that our music channels and calls.

Certain songwriting is the result of actual practice, and therefore extends a specific working into the song itself. Each time we play it, we are then re-invoking that feeling and that current. Several songs were literally not complete or even begun until a particular working was performed. The work dictates the music, and likewise the music dictates the work. It all falls back in on itself until the two are indistinguishable.

HH: On your demo, you take one of your songs from the poetry of Roman Catholic Spaniard and mystic Saint John of the Cross.  This poem, “La Noche Oscura del Alma” (“Dark Night of the Soul,” as discussed earlier), appears to directly mirror the implied meanings behind both its surrounding tracks and the project title itself.  What was it about this poem that obviously touched you so profoundly?  You certainly aren’t alone, as the poem has been alluded to by everyone from Depeche Mode to Loreena McKinnet.

SH: That poem is the origin of the term ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, and it seemed very fitting to utilize the words. Of course I cut the lyrics up and used them as they needed to be used, but the same potency exists within. The devotion and overwhelming beauty of the verse are inspiring, and it’s clear why so many have used to same lines.

Just like Casper David Freidrich’s awe-inspiring paintings, we seek to represent the atmosphere of the sublime. Artistically and philosophically, we both identify strongly with the writers and painters of the Romantic era. Although eons earlier, Saint John of the Cross’s poem is a work of sublime perfection. It falls right in line with the kind of material that inspires creation. Unifying both the dark and terrible with a sense of wonder is what inspires the music we make.

HH: Beyond your demo, your debut was in a compilation of American neofolk artists known as “Divided We Fall,” alongside some big names including Changes, David E. Williams, Blood & Sun, and Harvest Rain.  How did your inclusion on this compilation come to be?  Are you satisfied with the result of your first offering to the world?

SH: Much has been lying in wait behind the veil, and this song presented the first glimpse into the future. The song ‘Veneficum’ represents a shift from the previous incarnation of Night Profound to the present focus on a darker, collaborative sound. In fact, the track itself consists of material that was written in my youth, long before I had formed a formal band: connecting the past with the present and reinventing oneself. It is a declaration of new methods and venomous aims.

Being involved in this release is obviously a great honour for a virtually unknown act. Alongside many of the finest in the genre, it is reaffirming that we fit in well among what we can consider peers. Inspirational bands like Changes and close comrades like Et Nihil—it is surreal! We were approached from out of nowhere by the curator, who offered us a means to release our music on vinyl. Which is a true sign of success in our eyes.

Night Profound

Night Profound

HH: America seems to have become a hotbed for neofolk music in recent years while once-thriving countries like Germany are in a definitive downturn.  What do you attribute to this change in momentum?  Do you think that the American scene has something particularly special to offer that hasn’t been seen before?

SH: I think that as far as neofolk is concerned, North America has begun to reinterpret and redefine what the genre is, both spiritually and stylistically. No longer can we just mimic the sound of our forefathers. We have no interest in walking another man’s path.

America has long been seen as the mother of Western materialism and nauseating decadence. As we plunge full-force into Kali Yuga, materialistic perceptions of the world are being cremated. Tied to this cremation and destruction is a rebirth or resurgence of the power that lies just beyond, a force that is virtually unknown to those of the base, material mind-set.

In a society in total decline, it makes sense that those of us left in the wake will attempt to cling to the truth, or at least redefine it and present it as we see fit. Folk music is that of the people, and we are a people striving to make sense of this decaying corpse that we live on. The resulting music can only take on a unique identity: the purity found in pain, the honesty found in a struggle that permeates every level of our existence.

HH: King Dude in particular has very much left his imprint on the American neofolk scene and seems to be, at least in part, heralding a new generation of artists for the genre.  His recently realized label, Not Just Religious Music, is where your debut MLP, “Invocatio Lux, Evocatio Nox,” is slated for release.  Tell us about this forthcoming release.  Is it conceptual?

Night Profound

Night Profound | Credit: Shane Lange

SH: There are many reasons why Not Just Religious Music is ideal for us, let alone the enthusiasm to release something honest, unique and … religious! T. J. Cowgill of King Dude has become a good friend over the years and a powerful ally. In fact, he was in attendance at our first live performance in the squalor of Vancouver, BC, to witness the official rebirth of the project. He is definitely taking the globe by storm and we support his domination every step of the way. A will of iron! I would say he represents music once founded in a neofolk sound, but has pushed it beyond the genre trappings and infused his own essence into the music.

The title of our forthcoming MLP is Invocatio Lux, Evocatio Nox. It literally represents an entire year’s passage, traversing from light to night and birth to death. 2013, the Year of Death, was one of the most transformative in both of our lives, and this music stands as a testament to that chaotic and dismally trying yet triumphant and unforgettable time. As alluded to earlier, these four songs were conceived on each of the four most liminal nights of the year (anyone familiar with this should have no problem interpreting it). The sounds and the words capture the essence of those clandestine evenings and carry the workings forward beyond us. On a grand scale, the songs represent the birth-death-rebirth cycle, but even the fine minutiae represent particular images or feelings that came from the physical ritual work. All artwork has painstakingly been crafted and rendered by R., which has taken as much time as needed to make it perfect. The support from T. J. and Not Just Religious Music has been unshakable. There is no better place for this music.

From our births in fire and flames, to the charge of Lucifer’s light, to an oath in blood and ash, and ultimately to our own shining deaths.

HH:  You also have a collaboration just released with obscure Vancouver-based neofolk artist Crooked Mouth on Brave Mysteries, with a vinyl version coming on Neuropa Records.  Can you tell us more about that and what we can expect from it?

SH: Crooked Mouth played a key role in revitalizing Night Profound as an active project. As an old friend, he pushed me to bring the project to the live environment. I was completely ready to go dormant indefinitely. My goals were fulfilled the minute I finished the crude, home-recorded demo in 2011. As just a recording project, this music was never meant to take on an identity let alone duplicate the songs for a captive audience.

As an even older friend, I enlisted the assistance of R. Scythe Bearer for the first time to bring the songs to life. After one rehearsal, we executed a magickal set the very same evening. The doors to the future of Night Profound were suddenly and unexpectedly flung open. It was that night that we decided to create music together under this banner. All was quite literally resurrected from the dead, which coincided with a very tumultuous rise from my own ashes!

The collaboration consists of old demo tracks from both projects reimagined. We all feature on each song and our different styles complement one another in very strange ways. The psychedelic, ethereal nature of Crooked Mouth and the bombastic darkness of Night Profound clash head-on. Our mutual interests in spirituality, atavism, and literature fueled the direction. It wasn’t a sound we were actively seeking, but something that grew organically without restriction.

HH: You recently performed with Death in June, which most new neofolk artists might say is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here at the winter of Douglas P.‘s career.  Can you explain how this came about and how meaningful the performance was for you?

SH: How do I even put the significance of this event into words? An impossible life-long dream come true, yes, but there is more to it than just being involved in the night’s performance. We have the great honour of having hosted Death in June’s first appearance ever in Canada; after thirty-four years of trying, it finally happened. When the call went out for the Runes + Men tour, with a specific emphasis on Canada, it became my personal mission to finally make it happen. (But it could never have been done without the team of comrades involved!) It was only natural that we would want to perform alongside someone considered to be one of our greatest musical heroes. The experience came with all the struggles, trappings, and hardships of hosting a musical force like that in a city with heavy leanings towards leftist and anarchist thought and (in)action. Petty death threats, attempts to terrorize the venue, character defamation, and just out-right false claims (even against us) all ran their course. As expected, nothing happened in the end, and the show went off successfully without a hitch, resulting in a pleasant memory forever burned into all of our psyches.

The quality time that we were able to spend with Douglas and Miro Snejdr in the days leading up to the show outweighed any negativity one-thousand-fold. What we discovered was that our hero was as down-to-earth and pleasant as could be. It’s an odd moment to realize that you have a casually friendly relationship with someone you have admired so highly since adolescence. Truly, this was an honour for such a young band, but I believe that we earned our stripes through the whole experience. I think I can speak for all of us involved; we walked away from that week doubly strengthened in our support, admiration, and resolve.

Night Profound

Night Profound

HH: Let’s close this out with some current events.  Recently, there was an incident involving Waldteufel in which a new project in Aradia refused to share a stage with them because of misguided accusations of fascism, a story that is all too common in neofolk.  Do you have any thoughts on this?  Do you ever find yourself concerned that you may one day be forced to answer this same accusation?

SH: What a pathetic spectacle. Aradia has no place in this music if they are willing to jump to such reactionary conclusions. Unfortunately, they succeeded as parasites in using this situation as a platform to shine a spotlight on themselves while smearing someone’s character in the process. These ‘guilt by association’ witch-hunts appear to have a life cycle that eventually burns out organically. Seemingly the long-term ramifications are few, but the immediate effects disrupt shows, ruin opportunities, fracture friendships, and cause unnecessary stress—all in the name of some imaginary crusade. Clearly these people lack in critical-thinking skills and an appreciation of the fluidity of art. They are squabbling, whining children. Frankly, this kind of scum deserves to be stamped out, but more likely it’s best to just ignore them. We never worry about being on the receiving end of this nonsense for a moment. If it happens, then so be it. We know where we stand. We are too busy aiming beyond the stars to be concerned with the mundane, clay existence of ‘politics’. Those scraps are for the dogs.

HH: Again, thank you for the interview.  This last spot is yours for whatever you feel has been left unsaid.

SH: It is a privilege to be in the annals of Heathen Harvest on this side of an interview. There is much activity beneath the surface and we are ready to explode. As we harness our manifested recording sessions, many releases are on the horizon. Soon ye shall hear the call from the endless Night.

May we venerate Death in all its forms: The active force that drives and hurls towards oblivion; the purifying regenerative aftermath; the promise of a cyclical mutability in a blissful end; the cruel master and only teacher.

Night Profound | @Bandcamp

Brave Mysteries | @Facebook | @Bandcamp

Neuropa Records | @Webstore | @Facebook

Not Just Religious Music | @Facebook | @Bandcamp