Anonymous, extreme, experimental and highly prolific. Short description of the Paris based collective NON SERVIAM, presenting today the video for «Il pleut partout derrière».
«I will kill you» was the first introduction to the new EP, Il pleut partout derrière, which will be out the 12th of November. And, with this second track’s premier, we wanted to drop some thoughts on what is already available for the listeners, and have a short talk with the band. Keep reading…
Although we shouldn’t jump into conclusions just yet, especially considering the band we are talking about, these two brand new NON SERVIAM tracks tells us that electronica plays a big role on Il pleut partout derrière. Not in the purist way of Un petit d’amour pour la haine, but as if a concoction of breakcore, industrial and trip hop had swallowed up the chaotic black that they brought with Le coeur bat. Any possible black metal element deployed in both tracks is muffled under that electronic filter. Even on «I will kill you», the most metallic one, the screams and riffs are drowned out by the beats. It creates a curious effect on the blasts, making the mix less crisp, so it doesn´t hit you in the face when you hear it. The NON SERVIAM vocal duo takes the lead, but so does the piano and, at times, the heavily distorted bass, because this collective is able to achieve something beautiful and clean, and turn it dirty and rough.
No wonder why they have chosen the eponymous track from the EP to make a video, which consequently will receive more attention within the underground. This band proudly displays trap beats, signing up for the controversial trend that others like MORA PROKAZA have already joined. But only half way, since their atmospheres are calmer and more unsettling, not as confrontational or direct («hey, purists, look what I am doing with your genre«) as others that dare to play this genre, still bringing that game of beauty and beast, precious and horrendous.
The video doesn’t hide its amateurish intentions either, kind of mockerish. A guy in a wolf mask and a woman in the garden hiding in the bushes, couldn’t have they done it better? I suspect that it is more provocative than anything else. The wolf mask, the images of animals fighting, the attacks attack… It’s feels like a homage to snuff and mondo film culture of the 80s and 90s, where the most lurid, sickening and illegal material passed from hand to hand in socially undesirable circles. Although, I doubt that NON SERVIAM‘s aim was to faithfully recreate all that, they do achieve a certain sense of unease. At the very least a «what’s that guy doing with the mask, is it all a pose or is he really insane?».
NON SERVIAM‘s wrapping might seem frightening and may still cause some rejection among the listeners, but there is so much more to this project than initially meets the «ear» and it has a great potential for growth.
Now, hear it yourself:
«Une seule fois
Décapité, le roi
Fustigé par l’instant
Tant à comprendre
Il pleut partout derrière
Plus rien à apprendre
Ce sont tous des pervers
Se retirer les gencives
Pour ne plus jamais sourire»
Subterráneo Webzine: NON SERVIAM is a collective, but it is also a one man band. Are your collaborators also part of this entity? Do you always have the same people collaborating?
NON SERVIAM: To summarize, all these things are fluctuating. There is only one stable element from the beginning and our first album, Un petit peu d’amour pour la haine. And a second one since the recording of Le Cœur Bat which, for us, is our most important record to date. The rest is about encounters, helping hands and ephemeral collaborations. We like to work as much with each other as with others, the focus is always about the final result in NON SERVIAM, except maybe when we improvise. There, it’s the alteration of rationality, trance, self abandonment that are at the center. The recording, mixing and the rest becomes secondary, unlike the albums. We are very open to collaborations in these two frameworks, but as long as it makes sense: we are not a social club.
Subterráneo Webzine: Anonymity is often used as a lure to achieve a macabre feeling as part of the aesthetics of a project; a marketing tool rather than a disassociation of the personal side and the work itself. For this last approach, is it possible to “hide” the individual within this system that is made to control everyone? Focusing on a musical artist, would you be able to, for example, opens a Bandcamp profile without a certified bank account?
NON SERVIAM: In our case, anonymity is not an aesthetic choice but a personal one, linked to life choices and personalities. It is also a political choice in all of our activities, whether they are musical or not, we do not to let the creations be eaten by their authors. Starification is a shitty thing in which you have to struggle to be «beautiful» and stay that way, say the right things at the right time, be faithful to a false image and obey experts. All this is not our thing, and neither is for human beings. It is less and less possible in the world as it is going, with the rise of more and more hallucinating control technologies and the snitching spirit which flourishes everywhere and which goes with it, to remain anonymous. The quest for total anonymity is therefore vain and takes too much time and energy to leave any for what we have fought to achieve…
On the subject of bank accounts, it is technically possible to open an account in the name of an association. The account is not nominative, but it is enough to search in the association to find the names. That’s what cops do all day long, digging through files, cross-referencing data. The question is, who do we want to be anonymous to? If it’s from the state, then it’s almost impossible without having the means of another state with you. So yes, an anonymity fundamentalism, in this world, doesn’t make much sense anymore, and we do what we can with this world, and the compromises it imposes on us. Anonymity is a form of resistance, sometimes vain, sometimes victorious, but it is always a good thing against this world of vigilant neighbors and proximity police. In relation to the band, it is not a matter of making ourselves invisible, but rather of maintaining the minimum of opacity that allows the attention to be focused not on our individualities and our histories but on the music itself.
Subterráneo Webzine: Having no individual figure as a reference can somehow lead to eliminating that humanization that almost always comes with some sort of idolatry. But it can also create a feeling of detachment with, for example, the message. In the same way as using various genres can get you to be affected by gatekeeping and be left out of those scenes. Is it important to belong to some “community”/scene to have support and to be able to deliver the “word”? Does NON SERVIAM fit in any of them?
NON SERVIAM: Not really, no. The gatekeeping you’re talking about is institutionalized to the point where a band like ours doesn’t musically belong in any scene, except maybe in a pretty tiny and eclectic environment that is more interested in the extreme, radical and idiosyncratic character of our music; or others than whether we should be classified in this or that genre or niche. There is a very lively and international underground culture today, which we hope will overcome the spirit of all this gatekeeping that contributes to make everyone a bit more stupid, tense on sterile identity facts, and, in the end, ignorant, for lack of curiosity for the unknown.
Subterráneo Webzine: Given those facts, we should not expect to see a NON SERVIAM live performance, right?
NON SERVIAM: We don’t refuse this idea, far from it. The question for us is rather to find the form that would make a live performance possible. The question of anonymity is not really a problem, we don’t try to erase where the music comes from or to hide the bodies that produce it, what we want to avoid is the assignment/submission of the music to anecdotal identities that have at this level no interest and no reason to interfere, and to avoid that, many solutions are possible. The problem we have with the live show comes rather from the dissonance between our methods of composition and the budget and human resources that it would take to implement them on stage. We could also do something else on stage, and we declined several proposals, but we are still thinking about it.
Subterráneo Webzine: It’s risky to tag NON SERVIAM with a musical genre, but, evidently, the project has shown a great compatibility with electronica, much more than with any kind of metal. In any case, you always seem to take the most unpleasant and aggressive elements of any style, like dark ambient or harsh noise. Do you consider that NON SERVIAM is a band that deliberately seeks to discomfort, to disorientate…? In short, to make it difficult for the listener.
NON SERVIAM: It’s probably a good definition, which for us immediately refers to the essence of what extreme and experimental music can look for, whatever genre or genres it comes from. This is probably the reason why the styles you mention are present in our imagination and audible in the music itself. But it is not a question of disorienting the listener whereas we ourselves would have a compass with directions that we hide to him or to seek to plunge it in the discomfort whereas we are quietly installed in the softness of the existence! Music is our way to express both our disarray in front of this world but also the desire of the unknown which is our only compass, then in a certain way we propose to share this situation of discomfort, and we understand that a lot of people prefer to decline this kind of invitation which on our side we always accepted or sought! These extreme musical experiences have nourished us, and helped us to live, that’s also why our music is part of this «genre» in a very broad sense. But we also propose to share moments of intensity and deep and ephemeral joy that happen along the way, we hope they can also be present when listening to our music!
Your question also poses the problem of the search for the obscure, for the mysterious, for that which is not immediately revealed or even not at all. The search for the cryptic certainly plays as a temptation (especially in BM), the mystery has its charm in itself, but we really don’t want to abuse this search which can become very vain and egotistical if it ends up taking all the place and becoming an intention in itself. We even end up with a paradox: the mystery starts to focus our attention and listening becomes deciphering, which is almost the opposite of what we are looking for. We prefer to be ourselves, even if we don’t conform to much in this world, NON SERVIAM is a place where we don’t hide from it. This discomfort is an artistic interpretation of the despicable world around us, it’s the musical setting of the horror of living, of all the fast and powerful punches we take in the face and that we can’t dodge. We think that a real concentrated listening of our music must offer a certain number of powerful, fast and impossible to dodge punches. But music is for us something very serious, it’s not fun, like a fight, and it has to bleed to succeed. It’s hard to see how we could express what we have to say with funk or pop for example, because these genres contain as presuppositions the enjoyment of this world. We don’t feel it, we have the blues instead.
Subterráneo Webzine: We can read “The old world has to burn…” on your Bandcamp banner, and “Il pleut partout derrière”’s states “Tant à comprendre” and “Plus rien à apprendre”. It is, obviously, taken out of the whole lyrical context, but it can apply to our society which I believe is in deep chaos right now, and is one of the feelings that the video (and song) leaves to the listener. Can you give us some perspective on this track’s background? Do you believe we can still beat this messed up system?
NON SERVIAM: Indeed, the chaos of this world but also the order which imposes itself and devours our existences are present at any moment and our music is inscribed in these tensions which are difficult to cross. It’s interesting that you make the link between these two sentences. The refusal to learn what we are told, as children at school, in the family, as adults, in social relations, at work, etc., is vital. But this does not mean that there is not much to understand, including precisely what we are being taught not to understand. The tension towards emancipation and freedom, for example, what hinders it, the interest in otherness, the bizarre, the abnormal as well, and the understanding of everything that is done to normalize, to bring into line, to smooth out the exciting asperities of individuals and of life. This curiosity and this desire to understand, which is precisely what this world of order and norm seeks to prevent, we would like to keep it intact, to cultivate it. But all this goes far beyond music. «Il pleut partout derrière» is a tragic and disillusioned song, which through more personal elements, is an invitation to cry under the rain to go back stronger and better armed to the fight.
Subterráneo Webzine: Inspiration versus meeting a schedule. NON SERVIAM started releasing music in 2014 with an album that’s pretty much electronic, Un petit peu d’amour pour la haine. Then we got a single in 2018, A few notes on this world – for Marius Mason, June 11th, in solidarity, another single from 2020, and 2021 is been nonstop for you; Le coeur bat (LP) on April, Work EP on May, and we will be getting Il pleut partout derrière (EP) in November. Doesn’t that expose you to saturate the listener? Do you have a timetable, or does it feel like unnecessary pressure for a process that should be natural and should happen in its on moment?
NON SERVIAM: Our way of composing is very prolific and is part of our life, at every moment. Since 2014, hundreds of songs are in various states of development, more or less completed or in progress, and in a way we do not really have control over this process. On the other hand, bringing a piece or an album to fruition is more a matter of choice and decision, and at this point we try to take into account what it will give and to evaluate as best we can the interest that the public restitution could have for potential listeners.
The question of «saturating the listener» is not the first one that we actually ask ourselves, because once we have made the choice to finish a song or an album, the constraints of the search for a label, the manufacturing time, etc. are data that we don’t master at all and we are far from having a hyper-constructed career plan for the band, we don’t have a manager and none of us is really qualified to think efficiently about this kind of questions. So we navigate a bit by sight, trying to find the best way to release the projects we want to see succeed. This can lead to some kind of telescoping, like for Le Coeur Bat whose release on Code666/Aural was postponed several times because of the sanitary crisis and the lockdowns, and which ended up being released very shortly before Work on Trepanation Recordings because this project was much lighter and quicker to make happen, with the help of a more underground label and therefore more flexible on many points (like the extremely long delays prevailing in the music industry).
We will still have mishaps of this kind, certainly, but it doesn’t seem so bad after all. If a listener feels saturated, he will take his own measures, we don’t make music for him and we are anything but strategists or career managers, we do what we like with the given constraints and conditions, and for us it is never enough. So those who are tired of this should go to bed already.
Subterráneo Webzine: You recently were streamed on Antifascist Black Metal Network, you have positioned NON SERVIAM as an antifascist collective, and anarchist. And I want to quote another one of your statements: “Making black metal a threat again”. Towards whom or what? Also, again? Was it ever rebelliously threating towards the right?
NON SERVIAM: For us, it’s all about subversion. This is the maximum of what we think is possible through music. To think that music can produce radical social transformations is an illusion, it never has. It is the struggles, the real conflicts, the actions and the revolts that are able to produce real transformations. Sometimes, even, by pretending too much to make politics with music, we end up not making politics at all. Counter-cultural circles are a perfect example. Community withdrawal into a scene, the inner circle and intellectual consanguinity are harmful to the revolution, they are dynamics of reaction, of conservation, and not of destruction and subversion. Notes don’t break down walls, no matter how dissonant they are, pretty patches and drinking a beer with your friends in a closed and paying concert is certainly a lot of fun if you like that, but it’s not much else. If you want to experience something real in the confrontation with this world, don’t rely on music, go and fight where it’s really happening, the front line is certainly not the internet, nor a bar or a concert hall, as the war against this world will not be cultural, but insurrectionary. Unfortunately, the metal scene, and BM even more so, is saturated with overtly racist, sexist and homophobic people and behavior. Mostly because of a lack of thought or delicacy, but sometimes it’s much worse, as neo-nazi militants and sympathizers, or any other extreme right-wing chapel, abound. We must refuse this, whenever possible, and make sure we don’t participate in it. Some of these bands may have left their mark on us musically, but they are sons of bitches, they are our enemies.
Today there is a real pool of bands with whom we share minimally (but with some of these bands we share much more than that) a strict antifascism. The existence of a network like ABMN is an excellent thing for the future, one might fear that since what unites the bands is not music but a political stance, the musical result might be disappointing. But there is one outstanding fact: the music is actually really good. We invite the readers who do not know to discover bands like PESSIMISTA, SPECTRAL LORE, MYSTRAS, TUMULTUOUS RUIN, ETXEGIÑA, IRAVU and so many others that are nowadays broadcasted by ABMN, they are real musical gems.
«Making black metal a threat again» is a nod to the anarcho-punk and crust label Profane Existence that rocked our youth and whose motto was «making punk a threat again«. Has BM ever been a threat to right-wing thinking? We don’t know for sure, but it has been a threat to mainstream institutions and culture, which in turn has engaged in censorship against it, if only against its divergent approach to beauty and trance (which may recall the aesthetic shock of a painter like Otto Dix to name but one), and which are in complete contradiction with religious values. These shocks are subversive, and sometimes their authors are not even aware of it, or are morons. It is beyond them. In this sense, BM in some aspects has been a threat to the established order, despite everything.
To ensure an antifascist continuity in the tumultuous history of BM seems to us today an important initiative, and this is what the comrades who run the ABMN network are doing and relaying what is most interesting in the field. We therefore invite readers everywhere to follow the network and contribute to the war against reaction.
Subterráneo Webzine: And this is it for now. Please, use this last space to add whatever you like. Thanks for your time and answers.
NON SERVIAM: In the next few months, details will be revealed about an industrial hip hop album that we have made in collaboration with many rappers and musicians. This side project called BIOLLANTE is very close to our heart, it’s a very dark project evoking really difficult themes, but it’s also a sonic bulldozer that we are particularly proud of and that we think will be a real war machine on stage. We’re really looking forward to show it to people. Of course NON SERVIAM is also preparing several releases, including a full-length album for 2022. Thanks a lot for your interest, and for the quality of your questions and publications!