Thirsty Thursday: Stories Below Rock Bottom – A Talk with Psalms of Suicide

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In the periphery of an already fringe genre like depressive black metal resides Psalms of Suicide. With hands far from idle, the one-manner combines synth and atmospherics with d-beat to create a project worthier of being unearthed than his devotion to secrecy suggests. In his first-ever interview, Drunk in a Graveyard got a lesson in how a need for anonymity doesn’t necessarily equate to a need for obscurity. Proceed with caution as you strap into the tethers of an entity that resides within the straightjacket we are taught to keep safe in the dark. We are about to embark down the void below rock bottom.

Hello, sir. How are you?

Existing, for now.

Why don’t you introduce yourself?

I am Count Suicide of the band Psalms of Suicide.

So how did Psalms of Suicide get started, and what does this project mean to you?

Psalms of Suicide started as a way to express my self-loathing and depression and pretty much everything that could be wrong with a person. I just wanted to put all of that negative energy into a form of music. It’s everything. It’s my entire life. It’s the darker arts; exploring the part of your mind that most people don’t even want to think about. People go to therapy to get rid of that part of their mind, but I’m trying to delve into it.

What power does embracing those things have? What is your motivation for jumping right into it instead of trying to rid yourself of the things that you think and feel?

The best way to address a demon is to face it head-on.

I definitely want to talk about House of the Dying Self Terminating Sun. That’s the album that got me into Psalms of Suicide. I just stumbled across it one day on the YouTubes like you do, and I was blown away by all of the influences you clearly have going on. I was even enamored with the album art — it kind of reminded me of a suburban The Exorcist as the old man is walking into the house. I was curious to hear about the point in your life when you wrote it. What’s the backstory, and how did you bring it into fruition?

The first Psalms of Suicide release was just a five song EP thing. It never got a real release. I put it on Soundcloud and just kind of let it sit there. I was doing so many Psalms of Suicide songs where there was no bass on them and just a really bad drum machine, my vocals, and a 16-17 year-old-guitar that I had since I was a kid. Then I came into some extra money and bought more recording equipment. I got a bass. So I was like alright, let me step this up.

The funny thing about that picture is that I actually took it in Jersey City, New Jersey. I was driving by and saw the old man walking into the house and I snapped the picture. I have the colored version of the picture somewhere in my phone. That whole look — as soon as I saw it I was like holy shit, this would make a sick, sick album cover. I snapped the picture and I drove off and went home.

A few days later, I started on the first song for House, which is “Nocturne for a Despicable Reflection.” It’s probably one of my favorite tracks. That album has so many influences, like Darkthrone and depressing feelings. With the synths I used, I wanted it to feel as atmospheric as possible. So I sat there and I really toiled with it. During the time of writing I actually was 100% suicidal. I was on and off certain meds. I had been committed overnight. A whole bunch of stuff was going on at that time. I think that’s why it’s so powerful, so real, so very visceral.

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Absolutely. Obviously, we’ve heard a lot of bands that have sounded like Darkthrone before, but I think your point of view is interesting because you take the Darkthrone sound and make it your own by interjecting the atmospheric vibes. Personally, I haven’t seen a lot of that. Most of the atmospheric black metal I’ve been exposed to is either like Ulver or more post-black kind of stuff. I think what you’ve done is really interesting and really notable. I am truly sorry that you had to go through those dark times, but I can definitely relate. It it’s any consolation, your life created a really compelling piece of art that will help a lot of people in the long run.

It means the world that you even gave Count Suicide the time of day–or night–to interview because for a long time no one was listening. I had no fans. I thought that was exactly where this music belonged — obscurity. I was in a dreadful place. But now that people are actually taking a liking and relating to the music it’s somewhat refreshing, but it’s like man, this is where society is.

I’ll throw you a little less heavy of a question. Well, I guess it’s heavy in a different kind of way. How do you achieve that fucking bass sound? It sounds like the lower end of an organ.

For one, I use a five-string bass and a seven-string guitar, so automatically, I have an extra B on the top. The B gives it that heavier sound that a lot of black metal bands don’t have. Most black metal bands use six string guitars and four string basses because they want to sound as raw as possible. I wanted a little more of a honey sound. I want the embrace of death to taste sweet as much as it feels rough. That bass has that creamy sound. It’s not a raw, nasty distorted bass. It’s not that Ulver, Darkthrone bass that you can’t even really hear. I wanted my bass to sound pronounced. I want all of the instruments to sound pronounced in their own way.

Your mixing process must be interesting. Like you said, you can tell every element is held equally. Everything is just in its proper seat in the front row.

That’s the thing about Psalms of Suicide; it’s not mixed at all. What you hear is pretty much what I put down. The reason why I can get the bass right every time is because of these pre-sets that I have on the amplifier and putting the microphone the right way. I found the sweet spot for that sound. It makes it less of an arduous process to record the bass and the guitar. I could then really put emphasis on the vocals and the lyrics and the emotion of it instead of worrying about the technical aspects.

I just heard Apex of Human Shame last week, which automatically prompted me to write something about it. It almost serves as a sampler of all of your different styles and skills. Is there a favorite stylistic part on your album that you think you’re going to pursue with the album you have coming out this month or in the future?

I definitely want to do a pure symphonic release–maybe like four or five songs–kind of like “Dungeons of Mourning.” I also want to mix it more into an atmospheric track to introduce a different mood. I don’t know if you noticed, but in Apex of Human Shame, “Dungeons of Mourning” is directly in the center of the album. It introduces the second part of the album. You get into the 4th track and then you walk into the dungeons of mourning, and then you come out, and then suddenly “Euthanasia” comes on, and you’re there. It sounds a little more upbeat, but the context of the lyrics and the feel of it is still Psalms of Suicide.

That’s so funny because in my piece last week, “I Swung to Psalms of Suicide,” that’s the exact break where I go from walking around sadly to going ham on the swing set. That shows how effective you are at what you do. I really understand the story that you’re telling.

I’m glad. With that album, it went from self-loathing in the beginning to a place where you’re pushing your anger and self-loathing on other people. In “Euthanasia,” the first words are think about it/put the gun to yourself because I’m done feeling sorry for myself. Now it’s time for the world to feel this.

Going back to the topic of your album art, I Can See the Dead Trees is interesting as well because it encompasses quintessential black metal dead tree branches, but it’s against the backdrop of typical suburban decks. I think that’s what Psalms of Suicide is about and what I’ve been trying to convey when I’ve written about you in the past. Sometimes the scariest environments are the ones around us and you don’t really need to chase a fantasy to achieve the horror of darkness. How do you break out of that malaise when your immediate surroundings start to weigh on your spirits?

Basically, I shield myself from the world. I have severe bipolar depression, so one day I’ll be absolutely happy and ecstatic and creative and then the next day I won’t want to exist. On the days where I don’t want to exist, I try to have as limited human interaction as possible. If I can, I’ll stay in bed all day until I’m better. I personally don’t like the outside world to see any weaknesses. That’s why there are no names associated with the project; there’s only Count Suicide.

The suffering is anonymous. I want people to put themselves in their shoes. I want you to be immersed in the music. It’s not about seeing someone else’s point of view. I want you to be there in the room with me with the gun in my mouth. There’s a coldness in the air…I’m probably getting off topic.

No, I think that’s actually a really nice segue into what we were talking about earlier off the record regarding the value of corpse paint. Is corpse paint something Count Suicide really needs when we, the listeners, are Count Suicide?

Exactly. Count Suicide is not a person, it’s an essence. It’s a feeling. As far as corpse paint goes, if I feel like it’s something that will enhance the experience, I’ll do it. But, sometimes corpse paint is looked at as something funny and something that could be a good time, and Psalms of Suicide is not at all about having a good time. It’s about the lowest point in your life possible. It’s below rock bottom. Once you’ve hit rock bottom and the floor has fallen out from under you, that’s Psalms of Suicide.

It reminds me of how in AA rock bottom is perceived as the point at which you realize you have nothing left because of your addiction. I think another brutal point is the slow destruction before rock bottom.

You always have to hit rock bottom before you can make a transition. Oh, I just remembered a little fun fact about I Can See the Dead Trees. I also took that picture myself. I 100% don’t steal pictures. The dead trees are the ones right outside my window. It’s a place where I spent a lot of time looking out, contemplating life. I have a friend who’s also a black metal artist and we exchange ideas every once in a while. He told me “I can see the dead trees.” I was like that’s it; that’s the name of the album.

Well, Count Suicide, as always, I leave you with an open mic.

Psalms of Suicide is on Bandcamp. That’s it. That’s the only place where you can reach me. That is the only place where I post music or merch. That is the be all and end all of Psalms of Suicide.

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You can find Jenna on instagram.

Tune in next week to Thirsty Thursday for more from Jenna.

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