Six months ago, I set out to find the human appeal behind DSBM, a seemingly inhuman subsect of black metal, straight from the source of genre pioneer Xasthur himself. It was no easy feat, as I came to understand that Scott Conner, formerly known as Malefic, doesn’t think linearly, but rather, through a mental maze. No matter which way I seemed to turn, I found myself in a recurring reflective corner, perhaps revealing the inspiration behind what is arguably Xasthur’s most pivotal endeavor, “Prison of Mirrors.” Throughout our time together, Conner continually asserted that humans rarely want to take a look, and if even if they do, lack the fortitude or depth to properly interpret the mess that’s staring back at them.
But, I believe I speak for myself as well as countless other depressive fans when I say that my way of adapting to the agony in my own reflection is looking upon artists who don’t seek to repress what troubles them. Rather, these things are embraced, which leads to an othering process through which I can live vicariously. I can come to understand the sick facets of my own mind, but through the comfort and safety of someone else’s.
That is the best way I can describe my relationship with my recent correspondence with Antilife (FR) drummer, Haine. A Lille-based team of five, Antilife is special in that they are DSBM that reads much like an old school black metal book, bringing to life mental anguish through extreme aesthetic, a zero-fucks attitude, and the contextualization of Satanic themes within the Inseparable “I.” Out of the shadows of Bandcamp and basements and onto the stages of Paris, Antilife lifts the mask of depression and self-hatred to reveal a reality for some that is far from idyllic, but more than worthy of being understood.
And so, upon my recent exposure to Life is Pain (2016), my first instinct was to learn more — to pick the brain of the entity of Antilife, as well as that of my own, and maybe yours, too.
DIAG: Antilife’s vocals are pretty iconic. I would describe them as the wail-style demonstrated in varying degrees across DSBM, but taken all the way to the extreme, no apologies. What about them do you think makes them so polarizing?
HAINE: I really think that Psycho (our singer) has something inside that tears It apart every time. It tries to express Itself. It has trouble communicating with people It doesn’t know and these troubles are only the visible part of the iceberg. Something inside has a will to destroy and the will to express, though it’s not intended to be understood.
Its voice is one of the most powerful (depressive black-speaking) I have heard in the past years. And when we started producing music together, we knew that there was something to do with that power. These days, many people tend to hate Its vocals, but as you said, it is drawn to the extreme. It does feel Its voice when It tries to sing; it hurts It a lot. Psycho shares that suffering to the people hearing It. And because it’s not meant for everybody, some feel confused about that.
I like to think that people who dislike Psycho’s voice are just too in love with their lives.
DIAG: This concept of the “It” is haunting me. Can you elaborate a little more?
HAINE: Well, about Psycho, you have a wonderful means in English of getting humanity out of someone just by using the word “It.” In French, I could use the word “ça” (this is the translation used for Stephen King’s Pennywise), but it is not as fluid grammatically as in English — you don’t really get the concept. Psycho is not really human, nor a Monster. But It’s Something. It’s Something I can feel close to, and at the same time, It’s difference makes It difficult to understand. I like seeing It wandering on stage, never really knowing myself what could happen, what It could do. Even in Real life sometimes It loses me in certain ways.
But I think that is an accurate way to deal with something like It.
DIAG: Nearly every other DSBM band I’ve covered has been a one-man operation and subsequently tours rarely. Antilife is the complete opposite. All five of you put on one hell of a live show, encompassing extreme theatrics that traditional satanic black metal became infamous for, but with a depressive spin. Can you describe what inspires your performances?
HAINE: Well… In a certain way, things are not that different from the other DSBM bands you refer to. I write the music and record all the instruments. Psycho scribbles Its ideas, words, sentences sometimes, and use Its voice to propagate what It feels, or doesn’t feel. So there is a core in our church.
Obviously, the band is playing live so it requires an intense energy and intense despair to share a vision, which Nevrose, 0 and the new guy do pretty well. I think that since the first moments, we imposed our vision of what we should do. How we should feel.
We decided that Black Metal was the best way to express that, to “share our illness”, and because of our deep connection to the symbols and the dark arts, we decided to live what we endure in our minds: abuse, violence, depression, self-harm. Everything has to be real. Antilife does not pretend; it’s a bearer of purity. The purest form of life hating.
Life itself inspires us. We do not want to draw limits, we do not want to say to ourselves “maybe I’ve gone too far…,” because there are no boundaries to what life throws at us. As I already told you before, my child’s mind died long ago because of what I see, because of what I live. I don’t find any sense to human’s behavior, I don’t find any meaning to myself. I just do things, and undergo a lot of bad ones. And it seems that even if sometimes, your mind shows you more light, you remember that it’s just a running start before the fall. I don’t like what I live. I don’t like life. But I’m too weak to end my days. And rather than letting myself only lie into a puddle of bile and self hatred, I do music.
It doesn’t help. But it passes the time.
DIAG: It seems as though you’re carving out uncharted territory, particularly in terms of playing live, which is always super exciting. Do you think we’ll live to see a full-on depressive festival? If there are any in Europe I’m ignorant of, feel free to enlighten me.
HAINE: I don’t know… Is Suicidal Black Metal really an uncharted territory? Maybe some guys or girls did that thing a long ago, there’s an insane amount of depressive music in our shelves. I don’t want to compare, for there are a lot of influences in what we do, but Antilife is meant to be sincere to us. There’s no single fuck given to what others have to say about our music. Good or bad. We want to play live, so we share and play the game, but in our heads, there’s no room for self-appreciation, or in contrary, others’ disgust. I don’t ask anyone: “Do you like it?”, and don’t listen fully when they try to give their opinions. Sure, we could use these opinions as “rewards.” But nothing good happens when someone gives his mind.
For the depressive festival… I think this concept is antonymous. What should you feast upon if you are depressed? There are shows of course. Plenty of shows, plenty of bands in that subgenre.
But if after 10 hours of “depression” in the sun, you go to your camp to sing joy songs and get drunk with your friends, having a good time, what is the interest?
Well, if there’s something like that someday and they invite us, we’ll go of course, for it is a chance to play again, a new chance to feel, to harm oneself…
But I seriously doubt that this will exist in our nearest future.
DIAG: Speaking of which, Hellfest wrapped recently. France seems to be similar to my home state, Maryland, in that it’s known for its mammoth, internationally-drawing festival, but less seems to be known of the local scene. Is what you do well-received where you come from?
HAINE: I tend to think that France has some of the best potential in terms of Extreme Metal. So for sure, you know about Hellfest, but there are plenty of shows organized every weeks, everywhere in France, like with the guys from ONDES NOIRES. Sure it’s underground, and you won’t always have big names, and it’s usually small venues. But music lovers can find what they look for in our local scene. For what I know about some acquaintances that went to play in the US (or simply are from here), you have many places to perform and they are almost all bigger than our small venues…
About our music… I don’t know. We are not invited to festivals, and we still have to suck dicks to play, so I think that almost nobody gives a shit. It won’t stop us from doing music, and trying to get insane in live shows. But I don’t care. Five people or a full crowd… It’s the same to me. I will drink, do drugs, hurt myself, hurt others, and bring my own private Satan into the venue.
DIAG: What does the name “Antilife” mean to you? Is life inherently a waste or is it what we do with it as people what you stand in opposition to? It’s hard to say what’s worth salvaging, I find.
HAINE: First of all, it’s easy. It’s catchy. You can try to name your musical entity with complex terms, but the one easy to remember will always be the one you see first. At least, that’s what we thought when looking for a name. A simple word, but a complex idea.
Then, it means to us, and to me more precisely, that life in itself is garbage. You can find treasure in a pile of shit, oh sure. But you will still be in this pile of shit. My mind is biased and doesn’t work properly anymore compared to “normal” people, so when I get into some boring conversations about “what life is all about,” being that one who says bad things don’t bring you anything more than more disgust towards others and more pain to extract from your arse because of their morals and ideals.
Screw everything. I hate life. It may not be appropriate or legitimate. It may not be true to others, it may only be the reflection of my own sickness that I use as a filter to see the world… But what is the point really? I have a real and global hate towards mankind and what it does, but it is only a pretext to hate myself even more. I have no sympathy for the ones who “heal.” I have no admiration for the ones who get their head out of water. If I could scream and bleed in real life during hours and hours, as much as I do in my head… I think there would be a simple explanation to Antilife. It would be pure and clear.
But the meaning of Antilife does not mean I can kill others, or want to. It’s a choice you have to make. It’s your own choice and it’s a good one. If nobody understands what you have in mind… That’s not a problem. Nobody will. Accept it and kill yourself.
DIAG: How do you like to assert these kinds of world views through your drumming? I’ve noticed that Antilife tends to take on a nice deliberate pace; not too fast, not too slow.
HAINE: I don’t think of our music as separate and split into different pieces. We are going as fast as the slowest sheep in the herd. It tends to be me. I am not a good drummer. I practiced and learnt drums only to have a larger choice of composition, and to feel something else. But I can’t play very fast. That’s the only reason the tempo is not that high. I wanted to play drums, so I did. It doesn’t prevent me from writing and recording guitars, bass, and some other instruments, but I never took the time to master one instrument over all.
The day I’d learn to Blast Beat at 240 bpm, you’ll have some pretty fast tracks to hear and to get.
Plus… Well, the practical reason taken apart… I do think that Life Is Pain was meant to be this way. Not too slow, not too fast.
We didn’t want a DSBM album with low tempi, shitty melancholic arpeggios, and cries in the microphone. We wanted Black Metal to fornicate with our depression and to fuck it rough. And to show something raw. You can’t do shit on stage when you play traditional DSBM. And I hate to see nothing at a show. So, we went that way.
For more from Antilife: