I don’t have many nightmares, or even many dreams — the embers being extinguished by night caps fastened too early in the afternoon. But when I do, I’m generally paralyzed. The fear grips not from being able to escape Goat Boy or a street canvasser, but rather, the inability to reach the phone ringing violently in my cubicle. No, really – it’s become a reoccurring issue that’s spanned different states and different firms. You can run but you can’t hide – rather, the only escape is the great Tune Out. This time it took form in a chime from a computer indicating a new letter from Gmail rather than Outlook, delivering no other than kind words for a product of my time well-spent, providing a balance for the minutes prior; those that had been thrown to the wind while unjamming the copier.
As I read the appreciation of my review of Intig’s Dystymi (2016) and request for additional correspondence right from vocalist Jordan Jimenez himself, I became pleasantly unconcerned as my nightmare became a reality; I was much too covered in mail to be sorted and pleadings to be scanned to possibly reach the phone. But I sat still, embracing the possibility of having my ass handed to me. I had had another gift come in, after all. I was insured by others who are ready to raise the net as I fall.
It’s easy to grow bored or uninspired when met with the drudgery of everyday. But perhaps most tragic is when the drudgery spills over into our creative spheres. Yearning for conformity and consistency everywhere from festivals to house shows. But for every cog in the wheel there’s a gear that stirs progress. Intig takes form in the latter.
While precursor Dystymi explores the low-grade misery of negotiating postmodern weeks that fall into opaque months, newest EP Modfälld (2017) also provides snapshots of the peaks and valleys. My personal interpretation turns out to be a rapid cycling take on Jimenez’s perception – when it’s good it’s good, but when it’s bad, it’s the worst. Delicate highs give way to vengeful lows, starting with hope that slowly slips before ultimately toppling into the tortures of sleeplessness within a banal prison. It’s a narrative too easily tapped into – satisfying in mutual feelings of misery. But as always, I was still curious to learn more about those who have somehow found themselves in the same destination of different non-circuitous journeys.
And so, from the three grey walls around me, I expended my last energy of a 50-hour work week. Through dark skies and darting eye, I happily agreed to Jimenez’s request, but apologized in advance for any lags. My justification? Temporary blindness caused by the Death Sentence – a personification of our normal roles in society pioneered by some man in some sample in some nothing,nowhere. song that hangs on to me until I could be mistaken for the Blair Witch
We decided it would be best to make a Skype date that Monday evening – a proper reprieve from the agony of watching the firing squad polishing their guns.
One dark bedroom joined to another in Utah, it was a not-your-father’s meeting with a musician mastering a not-your-father’s writing process. With bandmates Andreas Rönnberg and Ken Klejs tied to their roots in Sweden and Denmark, frameworks are developed individually, then accommodated for one another through remote mixing. Jordan first learned of Rönnberg thanks to Cry of Fear, a video game developed by Rönnberg himself, and his additional passion for depressive music prompted him to reach out. Two full-length albums and an EP later with a whisper of another full-length in loom, Intig, operating under the Swedish word for “empty,” has become a feat of different facets woven into a post-depressive storybook
But quickly into the conversation I began to catch on that Jordan wasn’t interested in the technical specifics or scene semantics, and truthfully, neither was I. Rather, we chose to consider the humanity we attempt to construct to entertain our self-awareness and distract from our death sentences, starting with our art — an outlet that’s tried, and sometimes, true.
DIAG: Throughout Modfälld, vocals are wailed, but also spoken in a few interludes, exposing hopes and failures. But whichever way the cards fall, I can’t help but wonder the emotional toll of such an unhinged, hyper-exposed performance. When I write a full-on narrative piece where I’m the central character, for example, it takes me a few weeks after to recover. I have to write something more detached next, like a list or a rant or so forth. Like, I need to breathe inwards-out and not just exhale.
Jimenez: Weeks? Lucky you [laughs]. I usually work over months. When I do write it comes in spurts in my head and I just ramble until they stop. Then, I’ll work on them later — set fragments that I can elaborate on as others come into form. In terms of emotion, the writing of the lyrics is cathartic and the performance is as well. Writing, it helps me get out what I feel, the weight on me throughout days and throughout life. Writing helps me release and elaborate on these things, and if I can convey these ideas in a creative sense, it helps me take the edge off. When I was a teenager starting to write and take an interest in creating music myself, I never actually intended on becoming a vocalist. I wanted to combine the two things I really enjoyed, writing and music, and create my own stuff. So naturally it meant that in order for me to convey what I wrote, I had to be the one to bring them to life.
But the music keeps the emotion in existence, obviously. It’s hard to listen to Modfälld because of that. When I recorded the last two songs it was kind of a blur for me because it was a holiday and I was drunk. With “Forlorn,” there is a reason why the lyrics are omitted. But when recording, it often goes very fast for me while I’m there. Screaming and wailing, and even speaking, purge that emotion. The spoken parts, especially. “Forlorn” was needed — I wrote those lyrics, and then didn’t touch them, but then I saw it again, knowing I should use it, but I knew if I did, I wouldn’t want to put out the lyrics for people to read because it’s difficult. But ultimately, I look to convey the emotion, not just deliver the words.
DIAG: So I wasn’t much of a Linkin Park fan, but Chester leaving us a little too soon has had me thinking a good deal about some possible truth in between the lines. I was listening to their single “Bleed it Out” shortly after I found out the news and the line about hanging a noose took on a new eeriness. How much truth do you think is behind the words of depressive artists? Is it showy? Is it concerning? Or catharsis? Or maybe somewhere in between?
Jimenez: That’s something I can’t really attest to. I can’t be an authority on such a thing. I know how my music makes me feel, but it’s hard for me to say if someone else is doing it authentically or what their reasoning is. Sure, some bands, may feel like the “real thing.” I mean, there are videos of some guys doing drugs and even if you look at their lyrics or translations of their lyrics, they’ll be a very impassioned form of that. But, there’s art for art’s sake. There will be bands that like creating stories and atmosphere, taking you through journeys through space. Even in DSBM there could be art for art’s sake. You can write a story about a girl who’s broken or a phantom as an artform without having to deal with being either. But I’m not one to say what someone is dealing with. It could also be a little of both. You can put a character in a situation to creatively relieve some of your emotions while also trying to make an enjoyable story at the same time.
DIAG: Personally, I feel like I listen to DSBM because it genuinely resonates with what I feel, but also makes me feel a bit better by feelings less alone, a little less singularly betrayed by the harshness of the world around me. In that way, the noose–which I feel is to DSBM that the goat is to traditional black metal–takes on a symbol of empowerment without necessarily glorifying the act of suicide [which should never be done]. What are your thoughts?
Jimenez: It’s absolutely true that it’s nice to find an outlet to put those emotions into. Funeral doom is a good example of that. The atmosphere, how it feels and how it sounds, in addition to the lyrics, washes away some of the trouble. But the details of the trouble will never be exactly the same. Even if you relate to it, it’s not a complete understanding, but I don’t think that’s the point of that music, anyway.
Tolstoy says it perfectly in the opening line of Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” If you have depression and someone else has depression, you can seem to understand, but in the end, you don’t. It’s a completely subjective experience. People can feel happy for different things — getting married or having kids, but it reads the same regardless. Sadness could be for the same reason, but a different feeling. You and someone else could both be mourning a dead spouse, but the emotions are different. One person will turn to eating to cope with grief; another will turn to suicide. Some are more numb to it; some are more sensitive. Some will try to turn grief into a positive.
DIAG: Almost as if trauma is a fingerprint.
Jimenez: Yes, exactly, and back on the topic of DSBM, it doesn’t say you should kill yourself. The noose is not necessarily a symbol of intent, but a form of solace or contemplation. When someone is confronted with these things they become more tangible and there’s a possibility they’re more likely to feel comforted by just the option — so much so that they’re less likely to act on anything more destructive.
So, in Japan, it was a common thing for people to throw themselves in front of a train — so much so that it started becoming a problem for society. Your family would be billed for lost ticket sales and clean up as a deterrent, so people started going out to the suicide forest more. But the infamous suicide manual–instructions for ways to kill yourself alongside pain ratings and so on–is also a product of Japan. The author of it writes about a friend of his that carries angel dust around his neck, just in case. That’s what he intended that manual to be; an emergency exit — one you hope you’ll never have to use, but it feels better knowing that it’s there. I’m not a psychologist, but I imagine having that option gives relief to some people and actually discourages follow-through.
DIAG: So, take me through the final song of the album, 3 AM. Why is it so torturous when sleep escapes us?
Jimenez: I actually have trouble sleeping quite a bit. When I was younger I had good bouts of insomnia. I’ve had to take sleeping pills. So I’m familiar with being up late and wanting to go to sleep but can’t really, and even if I can, not for very long. Sleep is essentially an escape itself. When I say “I want to sleep, to forget a place that is so cruel and tainted” I’m referring to city life. Anything outside of rest is generally a bad thing. Everything is done when you sleep. When you wake up in the middle of it it’s harsh, and when you eventually have to get up, life is monotonous and you’re going back and forth. At the end of the song when I mention abandoned suburbs, I mean I can walk the streets and there’s not a soul around and it’s like becoming lost in a maze or labyrinth. I’m nothing and I’m no one and everything is gone. “Surrendering to a monotonous apathy” – that, you kind of have to do. Same shit, different day. Life is essentially the same thing. I’m sorry, I probably sound like an asshole.
DIAG: Not in the least. I think that sentiment is pretty damn relatable.
Jimenez: And I think that’s the worst part — we’re all subjected to it. Even if you’re on vacation there’s still existence at hand. There’s boredom, dull monotony, and negotiating the same path. I know that I can never get away, and until my death, things will be this way. Of course, I’m not entirely pessimistic. I still have some semblance of what I want to get out of life and I will strive for happiness. But, the harsh reality will always be a constant. It’s always there no matter what you’re doing or who you’re with.
My lyrics convey different emotions. 3 AM conveys that sleep is a good way to let things pass by. The dull drown-out of the city. A dull wave of calm. It’s the idea that I struggle to sleep, but I want to in order to be able to forget about it all. There’s also the reality that I can take sleeping pills, but I’ll still wake up eventually. Some pills won’t keep you down long enough. You may be able to fall asleep by 11:00, but you’ll still be awake by 4:30. “Dreams feel like long dull needles being driven into my head,” describes the problem of dreams. Our mind is showing you things that don’t exist, so there’s still agony there. But dreams outside of sleep can be difficult, too. Hopes can still feel very harsh.
Outside, there’s middle class suburbia where you’re not distracted by struggling to survive, nor carefreely enjoying something else, something more meaningful. That’s when you feel your mortality the most. Modfälld — that is what I deal with every day. Struggling to sleep, feeling lost, alienated; lonely, dulled out, numb, regrets, and feeling so hazy, so unclear.