How often are you fully invested in art whilst experiencing it? I don’t mean merely liking something – I mean having every iota of your attention immovably locked on to whatever it is you’re seeing or listening to, gripped by it. It’s something that’s unfortunately not common enough, as most art seems satisfied to be mere background noise or passive entertainment… which is where Canada’s The Projectionist then comes in, the very antithesis of those simplistic ambitions.
Led by the inimitable Lörd Matzigkeitus (The Black Sorcery, Thy Sepuchral Moon, many more), he and his extended horde of fellow cacodemons Parageist, Destroyer, Malphas and Orpheus aren’t content with the mundane, and instead have crafted a viciously engaging and conceptually dazzling black metal opera that veritably demands your attention. Entitled Visits From The NightHag and split over two parts – the first dropped on All Hallows Eve last year whilst Part 2 is currently bearing down on us at pace ahead of its June 28th unveiling through Appalachian Noise Records – it tells the tale of George, the Projectionist of Todendorf, and his tumultuous encounters with the titular NightHag. It’s a challenging, intensely personal and utterly entrancing piece of art, and we here at BMD are proud to present you an exclusive listen to the second last act of the forthcoming Part 2 – the ripping ‘Bandages Over Boards’.
A dynamic journey of a track, it has some undeniably killer riffs holding it together as it careens along wildly, through varying emotions that manifest at the end of this sprawling tale – but I don’t want to say too much about it, as in another incredible stroke of good fortune we have the Lörd himself here to unravel some of the mysteries behind this macabre and affecting work and he’s one of the most eloquent and forthcoming guests to ever grace these stained pages. So settle in, listen above, read on below… and give yourself over to the compelling tale of The Projectionist.
Greetings, Lörd Matzigkeitus! Sincerest thanks for speaking with us today, I hope you are well.
LM: Good evening. My pleasure…
Part Two of your Visits from the NightHag series is being unleashed very soon, less than a year after the captivating Part One. So, let’s get it straight from the creator: what’s happening in the NightHag universe? Where do we pick up with our protagonist George this time?
LM: After suffering a wildly invasive surgery to save his life from unexplainable necrosis of the legs, George comes back to consciousness half a man, and begins to spin a phantasmagorical tale to the attending Doctor Bendix. The baffled physician tries to piece together the events leading up to George’s current state. What he hears, will shatter his psyche and move the poor Doctor on a most foul trajectory… (but that is another story altogether)
For those unfamiliar with your inspirations and personal connection to the story being told – could you tell us a little about the genesis of the NightHag series, and why it exists?
LM: The NightHag story began as a simple conversation about sleep paralysis that Demoniarch and I had at his home over drinks. He mentioned at the time that every civilization on the planet had a version of it… a witch that came at night, sat upon your torso and held you down with impossible fright. Europeans called it the hag, the old hag or the Night Hag.
It stuck in my craw. I couldn’t shake the idea of it for weeks. My grandfather, George Howard, was in life a projectionist in Todendorf, Germany (yes, the band is named for him) and died in my arms due to complications from having his legs removed. It was the single most devastating moment in my life.
I began to come up with an odd idea of marrying the two notions; what if the NightHag came to him and was the reason his legs had to be amputated? (They were gangrenous due to diabetes in truth)
Fleshing this out caused me great pain, I openly wept during the writing of certain passages…but all great art is meant to be felt in full.
Why does it exist? I’ve pondered on that recently… have you ever loved a dead person so much that you’d create an entire world for them to live in, just to spend time with them?
You’ve been doing something quite intriguing in the lead up to the album’s release, in the form of weekly video shorts wherein you reveal a snippet of a particular track and yourself reveal more of the tale in devilish oration. What was the thought behind these short episodic teasers?
LM: I want to perpetrate the notion that the band are acting as projectionists; that we are unfolding a film for a darkened, captive audience. I mean for this band to supersede what Black Metal is, and take it where it hasn’t or shouldn’t go.
The films are like the movie-serials from long ago in cinematic history. They are there to stir curiosity and drive home the point that these albums, though uncompromisingly Black Metal, are in fact, operas and you are being told a story… something that seemed lost on many when Visits from the NightHag: Part 1 came out.
Following on from that, partially because watching those video shorts made me imagine a Visits from the NightHag television series – I feel NightHag would work quite well told via different media, as it’s an incredibly visual story. Either a series, book or a graphic novel perhaps would be incredible. Are you toying with the idea of anything like this for the future?
LM: I absolutely am. After having completed the 7th operetta and concluding the full saga roughly two months ago, I recently began writing VFTNH as a novel. This would likely evolve into a series of novels given the fact that VFTNH is only the first story in the complete arc. (The operetta for NightHag has already been published in my second book: Chapel of Astaroth)
If I were to have such lofty goals, I’d say that elucidating the story in prose will help me shop it around as a film/series script, and just as Stallone insisted on portraying Rocky, I’d insist on the features being soundtracked by The Projectionist…
Given that it’s such a personal creation that’s clearly close to your heart, I’m curious as to the compositional process involved – how much creative control do you take over the music? Do you write the lyrics and then trust the others to write a suitable ‘score’ to the tale, as such?
LM: As with all music I’m a part of, always the writing comes first. I am perpetually writing, averaging 130-150 pieces per year. In the case of NightHag, it was actually written two years before any music was conceived.
Parageist and I have a very symbiotic musical relationship. Every album we make together, we have a pre-emptive conversation where I outline what I’m hoping to hear, what the rough tone should be and length of songs/level of ambience. Then he plays whatever he wishes from that. I don’t lord over him telling him which notes to play.
Some of my other projects are a bit more “democratic”, but with The Projectionist, and these operas, I have a clear vision of what the overall album should sound like. Mainly that the music needs to follow the level of urgency in the plot line.
On NightHag and it’s follow-up The Stench of Amalthia, Parageist submitted the amount of songs I requested based on the number of Acts I’d written and I arranged them in the order that flowed best with the plot. For the third album in the arc, I want to try a new take on writing and have Ghast and Parageist write the guitars to the operetta itself, drawing inspiration from the events therein.
Whilst your vocal attack is one of the most varied in extreme metal, not every voice on the album is yours: Caesar Tiberius and Aven Haunts also reprise their roles as Dr. Bendix and The NightHag / Nurse respectively. What has it been like working with them? I believe there will be quite a few installments of the NightHag series, are they both in it for the long haul?
LM: Technically, the entirety of VFTNH was recorded as one body of work, however, when complete, it clocked in at 84 minutes in length. So the decision was made to split the album up in two parts. The sixth opera is actually 16 Acts and may end up getting the same treatment, but we shall see…
Regardless, yes, I can perform virtually any style of extreme metal vocal one can conjure, but I felt an entire album of me talking to myself would come off as very confusing. One thing I cannot do is sound like a female. So I enlisted longtime friends Aven Haunts and Caesar Tiberius to add additional texture and dynamic to the delivery. Aven has a very eloquent and Victorian quality to her voice that I really thought captured the essence of the NightHag and she can manipulate her voice to sound innocent and sweet (which is NOT her nature at all hahaha). And that glorious witchy cackle of hers? Some of my favorite sections of the opus. I did perform a Nattramn-like shriek as a backing vocal to her NightHag. That will be a constant as the character evolves over time.
Caesar has a coarse, articulate voice that I think brings a good depth to the Dr. Bendix character. He has a way of delivering a flippancy that I hadn’t anticipated when writing the Doctor’s dialog. It especially shines through on The Stench of Amalthia, which you’ll have to wait until next year for, although it is near complete as of this interview.
Both are loyal, lifelong comrades of mine dating back to my first band Spawned by Rot and going forward, every appearance of the NightHag and Doctor Bendix were penned with them in mind.
You’re clearly influenced to a large extent by film, but one in particular receives a solid mention in this visitation – the 1922 expressionist horror masterpiece, F.W Murnau‘s Nosferatu. I don’t want to give too many details away, but I was quite thrilled to hear Murnau invoked in ‘The Globe Theater’, as it’s one of my personal favourite films of all time. Why did you select Nosferatu in particular to be included in the tale in this way?
LM: Silent horror has always been my main love of film. I’m very partial to the absolute creep that Murnau conjures in his expressionistic pictures. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari deserves an honorable mention.
Nosferatu is a film humanity is lucky to have access to as all copies were ordered destroyed by Bram Stoker’s estate and it remains one of the most chilling features in cinematic history.
Long ago (in the SBR days) I had very long hair and after George Howard died, I was out of my head with grief. I was in the middle of watching Nosferatu when the thought popped up in my mind “I can get away with looking that evil…”
So I shaved my head in the hopes that seeing a new person in the mirror would shake me from the soul-shattering misery that my life had become. My ex-wife sobbed as I cut my hair off and I never let it grow back.
While Nosferatu is easily in my top five best films of all, I’d list Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 movie Häxan as my favorite.
I will say, it was important that film were integral to the plot, and I wanted to choose excellence to represent that.
Whilst the NightHag series thus far has been undeniably great, it is incredibly theatrical and far more conceptually intense than much of your other work. I dig it, but it’s unfortunately not too hard to imagine that for many standard black metal fans (especially those who may have discovered The Projectionist by way of your other more straightforward musical outlets), what you have created here may all seem “too much”. However, I believe that it is this type of uncompromising art, fearless in approach whilst being brazenly and unapologetically passionate, that will be remembered in time. I might be going out on a limb here but look at artists like Silencer, Rainer Landfermann‘s work with Bethlehem… against the grain and potentially divisive in their performances? Yes. Spoken about and revered in black metal for decades once people catch on? Unquestionably. So after that long-winded lead in, my question is: do you ever get the feeling that you’re a “misunderstood genius”, in a way; creating art that’s years ahead of the curve and that later down the track everyone will discover this stuff and be captivated by it? Dare you hope that your own name would one day be spoken about with the greats?
LM: It is appreciated to be thought of in such a way.
There are easier ways to achieve acclaim, I could squawk devilish epithets and sing monotone but my motives for performing music have always been of an intellectual nature. I’ve no grand desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Maybe I’ve been able to skate by before this by having isolated songs/lyrics that function without effort or reading before this, and there’s a huge body of every musical community that are happy doing just that… but I want more.
Some of the deepest pleasure I’ve gotten from VFTNH have been reviews where it was said that due to the storyline, they were forced to follow the lyrics and truly invest of themselves to appreciate the album.
This whole question reminds me of the passage in Oliver Stone’s Doors movie where, upon being shown Jim Morrison’s film in university someone in the crowd yells “YOU NEED YOUR ART SPOONFED TO YOU!”
The Doors had to trim 3.5 minutes of glorious solos from ‘Light my Fire’ to placate the masses and get a number 1 song. I prefer ‘The End’ myself.
We as bands tirelessly promote our wares, but a fan will only get out of an album what they put into it. Or life for that matter…
Anything worth having is worth the effort to pluck that particular fruit. We have created something bold and unusual. The execution of which finds me proud.
Did we make this album for anyone but ourselves? No. (Aside from George)
It would be deeply satisfying to be viewed as something of a pioneer who expanded on the perimeters of Black Metal, but it isn’t my goal. I’m a Projectionist, I have films in my mind to show you and postulating my legacy is quite frankly, something I don’t allow myself time for. I’m too busy making art at a breakneck pace before I’m too old and decrepit to do it anymore. I’m an atheist. This is all I’m ever going to get.
And finally, today we have the great pleasure of premiering a track from the album – the fantastic penultimate composition ‘Bandages Over Boards’. Could you tell us a little about this particular track?
LM: hard to speak too much on this without spoiling the plot…
There has been a huge catastrophic battle between the NightHag and one of the protagonists. The Globe Theater is in shambles, and the survivors believe they’ve achieved victory.
As they repair the decimated cinema, they learn this is not so. Hence “Bandages over Boards”
This act moves along with punch and vigor, taking place right after the violent climax.
Sincerest thanks again for your time, Lörd Matzigkeitus. It’s been a pleasure. Any final words or wisdom for us all?
LM: Death is greedily, hungrily stalking you with cunning as we speak…
Don’t waste a flicker of breath unless it’s what you’d use your last day for.
Visits From The Nighthag Volume 2 releases 28th June via Appalachian Noise Records.
Pre-order Visits From The Nighthag on CD, digital or autographed box set from Appalachian Noise Records here.
Support The Projectionist:
Like Black Metal Daily on Facebook for more kvlt sounds and tonal blasphemy.