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Interview: Liturgy’s Hunter Hunt-Hendrix on the death and rebirth of black metal

Interview: Liturgy’s Hunter Hunt-Hendrix on the death and rebirth of black metal (photo)

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My favorite record of the year might be Aesthethica, the second album from Brooklyn black metal quartet Liturgy. At once, Aesthethica is a clear continuation of and break from black metal orthodoxy, the sort of record that has devoured the lessons of the past while vowing to build something new from them.

That said, one of my favorite new musicians of the past few years might be Liturgy’s frontman and sole composer, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. To say that members of the metal community loathe Liturgy would be to understate it; these “Brooklyn black metal hipsters” are handled like pariahs, heavy metal infidels that aren’t beholden to the sacrosanct nature of the music they make. But Hunt-Hendrix holds true, not only writing an involved manifesto called Transcendental Black Metal but also going on at length in interviews about his interest in music that’s not of the fold.

We spoke with Hunt-Hendrix by phone. Before you read the interview, download three tracks off of Aesthethica, and enjoy as you read: “High Gold,” “Returner,” and “Generation.”

You just returned from a European tour. How did the audiences greet the new material?

The tour went really well. It went awesomely well. We were a little surprised by how positive our reception in Europe was, and how easy it was to go back and forth between more metal shows and more experimental shows. Symbolically, we played the Roadburn Fest earlier on, which is the mecca of metal festivals. Then we played the Donau Festival in Vienna, which was a totally different environment. It was curated by Ben Frost, and we met Rhys Chatham. That was awesome, too. A lot of the bullshit that alienates people from our band in the States doesn’t have the same effect in Europe, for whatever reason.

It’s funny: I was just speaking with Altar of Plagues, another black metal band, and they said the exact opposite, that America seemed more open to their interpretation of black metal.

They’re from Ireland, right? Maybe it just has to do with crossing the Atlantic, regardless of which side you’re coming from or going to. I think there is something to that: When you play in a different country, people are just more respectful. It’s like, “Wow, you came all the way over here. You’re serious.” If you just drive to Richmond or something, people are like, “I could have driven to Richmond.” You’re just one of a billion bands. Maybe people are more willing to accept what you’re doing if you come from far away.

Does playing Europe make you nervous at all? After all, you’re disassembling and reassembling the version of black metal that they created. Are you worried that they’ll interpret it as sacrilege?

That is what we’re doing. I think that black metal is dead. What I call Hyperborean black metal is over. But I think a lot of Europeans agree with that. We didn’t go to Scandinavia this past tour, but we did play in Scandinavia last fall, in September. People in Scandinavia don’t care about black metal at all. They’re totally sick of black metal. The second wave was really getting going in the early ’90s, even the late ’80s. I think people are tired of that stuff and excited to see a band trying to build something new out of the ashes of the past. I’m sure there are people who are critical, too. Those people probably didn’t come to our shows, so I didn’t have a chance to really talk to them.

This album, Aesthethica, is such a step forward in terms of ideas and execution from Renihilation. At what point did these changes and risks become clear?

Yeah, the musical logic develops on its own. I’m writing the music. That’s not always totally clear to journalists, but I write it all in advance. There was no way we were going to remake Renihilation again. That record was so intense throughout the entire time, it was, “Why would you make another one of those?” That would be a failure, to repeat something like that. I wanted to be able to write a longer record, first of all, and incorporate really long, hypnotic segments to contrast with the bursting-at-the-seams, really climactic segments. To me, the development felt pretty organic. From my perspective, this is what the band has been leading up to, from the start, as opposed to it being some kind of left turn, some big surprise. It’s just that we weren’t quite able to get there.

There was an awareness that it would alienate more black metal fans than the last record, but we didn’t have those black metal fans until the last record. It’s definitely bad news if you’re thinking about which fans you’re going to satisfy and which fans you’re going to alienate, or which audiences you’re going to reach. Good music comes when you really have a strong urge to make some kind of sound, and then you obsessively make it. You just throw it out there, and let the reactions happen in whatever way they’re gonna. That’s sort of the organic, real way to make music. I am a little bit surprised by the Internet firestorm that’s been going on for the past month or two about our band. I am surprised by how much people hate Liturgy. It’s a little more than expected.

What’s been the most shocking aspect of that so far? What has someone said that’s surprised you the most?

It’s easy to answer that question. What’s most surprising is the degree to which homosexuality figures into the slander. That was never the case for the last record. For the last record, it was just kind of, “Well, this doesn’t take too many risks,” or “They’re boring,” or “Too hyped” or “They’re from Brooklyn.” It was something like that. Now, it’s like, “These guys are fags. These guys deserved to get fucked in the ass–to death.” It’s this violent, gay, rape stuff. It’s all over the place, and it freaks me out a little bit. Somehow, some threshold was crossed. It’s less dismissive, and more, like, really, really angry. But this gay thing comes out of nowhere. It underscores the disconnect between me and my world and my group of friends and the people who are blogging. We would never think to use homophobic language and imagery to insult somebody, at all. It weirds me out because I feel disconnected from the community of people who are taking the time to do this. I wouldn’t want to be friends with them.

Obviously, we’re dealing in a form where dark, sometimes vile things are pretty commonplace. Do you think it’s just a result of that, or is it out of defense for the form?

Well, that’s kind of a good question. There’s such a fine line but also an enormous difference between bypassing or ignoring or not commenting on something you don’t like versus writing a whole lot of angry stuff about somebody you don’t like. Maybe it’s repressed homosexual tendencies.

I doubt that statement will ameliorate the situation.

Oh, right. Maybe that should be off the record, but I don’t know. (Laughs.) I don’t know how many black metal fans will be going to the IFC blog, anyway. The blogosphere scandal stuff for me is just fun, in a way. It’s so weird to do an interview and know that in a couple of hours or days, there’s going to be this building pool of text that shows up on the same website. It’s a very eerie thing.

It’s always been curious to me that your Transcendental Black Metal manifesto exists as a book and not just a massive Internet essay.

I was just asked to publish it. That was originally delivered as a lecture at the Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium, you know? Then it was published in a journal, and then they ended up making a book out of that black metal symposium. It was published there again, and now it’s a stand-alone thing because Rich Loren, the Pyramids and Handmade Birds guy, asked me to publish it. I was glad, because I wanted to publish it. But your question is why on paper instead of on the Internet?

Exactly. Did you want to try to create real conversation among people about it, instead of simple online bickering?

That’s really interesting. I never really thought about that, but I guess it’s pretty true. I took the manifesto pretty seriously. I spent a long time writing it, and I do want it to be in a forum where people might read and re-read it, not just glance at it and judge it. I wanted to put it in a forum for sound discourse. It’s so funny because so much of the reaction to the manifesto–well, in some cases, that has happened. There were reviews of the Hideous Gnosis book in various academic journals, but most of the comments still are on the Internet. They’re always just complaints about the fact of having written the manifesto. I’ve never seen anyone engage with what’s actually written, with what the argument is. People think it’s so absurd to write something about that at all, that I think I saw one blog post that made the point that there’s content inside the manifesto that one might consider and react to, rather than just react to the performative act of putting the manifesto out there. It’s as though any manifesto is the same as any other.

In a way, that applies to your music, right? The kids calling you names care less about what you stand for and how you look than, you know, how you might sound.

There is a parallel there, that people react a lot more to our look a lot more than they react to the music itself. I understand. It begs the question of why people listen to music. In defense of people who react to our look and hate us just based on that, especially kids and teenagers, one of the reasons you listen to music is not because you just want to hear the sequence of sounds that makes you feel the best. There are subcultures and communities. “I dress like you. We get along. We are enemies with this other subculture. Our politics are the same.” For rock music, especially, that is half of what loving music is, identifying with a scene. I certainly felt that way when I was in high school. I was a hardcore kid. There’s no rule that people have to overlook all of that stuff and just focus on the sounds, because that’s not how it works anyway. A lot of musicians don’t think about that or talk about that exclusively, but it’s true.

That is one thing I disagree with Krallice about–the ideas behind music. I’ve talked to Colin [Marston, Krallice guitarist] about that stuff. He thinks it’s all about the music, that the ideas don’t matter, or he doesn’t care what you call it or who makes it. Especially with non-classical music, looks and ideas and opinions and symbols are a really big part of it. I can understand people being angry.

If there were a scene built around Liturgy, what would it ideally look like?

I definitely don’t know how to answer that question. It would have to be a scene of… Well, I’m happy for it to be a smattering of people from all different scenes, I guess. The only way it could be one scene is if there ended up being a whole lot of other bands in the same vein as Liturgy. I don’t think that’s realistic. I think we have to snipe people away from different existing scenes. That’s an interesting question, not one that I’ve thought about enough to have an answer for.

You implied that this band wasn’t ready to make this sort of album the first time around, that this is the progression. Why weren’t you ready?

One of the biggest challenges of this band is just getting people to show up to practice and to agree to go on tour. You see a band that’s out there doing it, and it just seems like it must have just fallen into place easily. But there’s a long period of time, I think, in any band if it’s one person who really wants to do it, where the other people don’t see what’s going to happen. “Well, this isn’t worth my time. I don’t want to go to practice. I want to go to a show or hang out.” Renihilation was put together so, so quickly. We barely had any time because people were so busy with other stuff. This is the first record where we had the time and commitment from people to sit down and really do it, work hard on all the stuff.

Was there any more collaboration on Aesthethica than on Renihilation?

No. It’s weird that people usually don’t have that sense that there’s really no collaboration at all. I demo the songs, and I send out the demos. We go through stuff. There are things that change as that process happens. Maybe if something doesn’t work as well live for some reason. It’s more carefully composed than people might think, because it sounds so chaotic and so free. But it sounds the exact same way each time.

How important for you has it been to retain that one-man control?

It’s not something I’ve ever had to fight for. This isn’t the kind of band where it’s like, “Who has creative control?” It’s not like Bernard [Gann, Liturgy guitarist] would ever come in and say, “I have this song I think we should play.” There’s no discussion like that. For me, it’s always been a matter of getting people to spend the time to play the songs. Everyone else is interested in their other projects, and those are their creative outlets.

Thrill Jockey, your new record label, includes no other metal bands. Why go with a label that’s more known for indie rock and experimental music when metal fans already pan you?

When the opportunity came up, it just felt kind of perfect. It felt more like a comfortable community that made sense to be a part of. It certainly eased a lot of anxieties, because the less we’re a part of the metal institutions, the more comfortable we are. It’s just where we belong, I guess. Whether that alienates people or not, you can’t think like that.

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Janet Varney -Photo Credit: Kim Simms/IFC

Jan Against Evil

10 Things You Need to Know About Janet Varney

Catch Janet Varney on Stan Against Evil premiering November 2nd at 10P with back-to-back episodes.

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Janet Varney is about to go big time. She’s been on our radar for years, always popping up on that show, Web series or podcast we couldn’t get enough of. Now, Janet’s about to star on Stan Against Evil, the new IFC horror comedy series from the folks behind The Simpsons and The Walking Dead. As a little homework, we thought we’d dig into this talented performer’s past, and see what’s helped make her such a star on the rise.

Bone up on all things Janet Varney below, and be sure to stay tuned to IFC.com for more Stan Against Evil news before the big premiere on November 2nd at 10P.

10. She’s an Animation Voice Acting Superstar.

Korra
Nickelodeon Animation Studio

While Janet might be a new face to some folks, animation fans know she’s been the voice behind some beloved animated characters. Probably best known for bringing the heroic Korra to life on The Legend of Korra, she’s also provided her talents to shows and movies like Norm of the North, Sanjay and Craig and Dante’s Inferno.


9. The San Francisco Sketchfest? She co-founded it.

SF Sketchfest
SF Sketchfest

Now entering its 15th year, the SF Sketchfest started as an excuse by Varney, and friends David Owen and Cole Stratton, to give Bay Area comedians a place to perform. Over the years it has transformed into a comedy hotbed, with everyone from Zach Galifianakis to the original cast members of SNL taking part.


8. She’s Been Known to Perform Old Time Radio Plays.

Shawn Robinson / The Daily Quirk

Shawn Robinson / The Daily Quirk

The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a stage show and podcast that performs in the style of the radio plays of yore. Varney began as a guest, popping up in numerous productions, until she finally just went ahead and joined the troupe. Some of the show’s more notable regulars include Nathan Fillion, Comedy Bang! Bang! favorite Paul F. Tompkins and Linda Cardellini.


7. She Nailed a Classic Key & Peele Sketch.

Key & Peele was always at its best when deconstructing race in America. In this classic sketch, Janet Varney and comedian Natasha Leggero starred as two women who vacillated between the good and the bad of having preconceived notions about black people. Are stereotypes always racist? Can you use people’s ignorance to your own advantage? Is it wrong to have sex with a racist girl? No, seriously, is it? Because Key and Peele would like to know.


6. She’s Riffed Movies with the MST3K gang.

Footloose Rifftrax
ColeStratton.com/Rifftrax

From the warped minds behind Mystery Science Theater 3000RiffTrax Presents is a series where comedians are set loose on lousy movies, taking them down one sarcastic comment at a time. Varney, along with longtime collaborator Cole Stratton, are frequent guests on the show.


5. She claims June Diane Raphael is an Amazing Kisser.

Burning Love
Yahoo! Studios

While doing an AMA on Reddit, Janet coughed up some juicy gossip. Varney was one of the stars of the Yahoo! series Burning Love, making it all the way to the end of the parody dating series. At one point, she was fortunate to lock lips with Mrs. Raphael, and gives the experience a big thumbs up.


4. Her Podcast The JV Club Perfectly Captures Our Awkward Years.

The JV Club
Nerdist

A renaissance woman if there ever was one, Varney curates her own art exhibition called Fleeting Immersion, writes music, and hosts her own podcast, The JV Club, on the Nerdist Network. A weekly look back at all of our awkward years, the show is consistently featured in The Onion’s AV Club “Best Podcasts” lists. Guests from all areas of entertainment have stopped by to dish about their formative years, including Portlandia‘s own Carrie Brownstein.


3. She Had Puppet Dreams with Neil Patrick Harris.

Neil's Puppet Dreams
Nerdist

Varney helped bring Neil and his partner David Burtka’s puppet fantasies to life with the Web series Neil’s Puppet Dreams. She raved about working on the Jim Henson Company series, telling Nerdist that “[Neil’s Puppet Dreams is] my baby. I had a baby with two gay men and that’s what came out.”


2. Remember Dinner and a Movie? She Cohosted it!

Dinner and a Movie
TBS

What better way to enjoy a movie than with a delicious dinner inspired by a pun? From “Snow Coens” to “The Hippocratic Loaf” to “The Beets Go On,” if there was an adorably corny food-related joke to mine, the good people behind Dinner and a Movie found it. Thankfully, that was far from the only reason to tune in. From 2005 to 2011, Janet got to stuff her face and flaunt her film knowledge as the host of the late night dinner party. Unfortunately, the show was canceled, but Varney says she’s still extremely close with cohosts Paul Gilmartin and Claud Mann.


1. She Plays Becca on You’re The Worst.

Janet Varney You're the Worst
FX

Prior to signing on to fight demons in Stan Against Evil, Janet was channeling inner demons on the FX dysfunction-com You’re the Worst. Her role as Becca, sister to Lindsay and Jimmy’s ex, is both integral to the show (her wedding is where Jimmy meets Gretchen) and earned Varney rave reviews.

Check out Janet in a clip from Stan Against Evil below.

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The Wicker Man Nic Cage Bees

Great Moments in Rotten History

10 Classic Rotten Movie Moments

Catch "Too Rotten to Miss" movies Fridays at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

Sometimes you don’t need to watch an entire movie to know how bad it is. Sometimes, just knowing about infamous scenes is enough to know why some movies have entered the cultural lexicon of badness. As we kick off a new month of “Too Rotten to Miss” movies on IFC, here are ten of the most infamous rotten movie moments — notorious even if you haven’t seen the movie from which they spawned.

1. “Not the bees!,” The Wicker Man

Nic Cage bees
Warner Bros.

There could be an entire list of these moments starring just Nicolas Cage. But despite a wealth of moments to choose from, the actor’s most infamous rotten moment comes from The Wicker Man, in which a fragile masculine fever dream in the form of a neo-pagan cult dumps a bucket of bees on Nic’s head.

This one is particularly beloved in bad movie circles — it was even made into a techno remix.


2. “I was being trained…to conquer GALAXIES!,” Battlefield Earth

Though I’m partial to all of the scenes on this list, this one has a special place in my heart. Battlefield Earth‘s badness is mostly stylistic, a film that positions itself as epic and badass but is really just…well, it’s something.

In this scene, John Travolta’s alien character Terl is getting drunk to drown his woes, so his line read is exceptionally ridiculous in a film full of already ridiculous line reads. And while you can’t say the failure of Battlefield Earth is entirely Travolta’s fault, he’s not blameless, either.


3. “Man, everybody got AIDS and shit!,” Showgirls

Showgirls hand wave
United Artists

Picking only one scene from this fruit salad of wonderful, terrible ideas was a challenge — what could possibly outdo “Different PLACES!“? Or Nomi’s empowering beating of her friend’s rapist while topless with lipstick on her nipples? Or any scene between Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon?

Showgirls whorey
United Artists

But really, one must go with that exercise in David Lynchian surrealism where Nomi is warned off by her friend/mentor(?) James against…unsafe sex? Metaphorical promiscuity? Actual promiscuity? Because everybody got AIDS. AND shit. #90s.


4. “Daddy would you like some sausage?,” Freddy got Fingered

Like with Showgirls, Freddy Got Fingered is also a stacked deck — do I choose, for instance, the scene in which Gord (Tom Green) manually stimulates a horse while merrily shrieking, “Look at me, daddy! I’m a farmer!”? Or, perhaps I could go with the one where he shoots elephant semen at Rip Torn out of an ejaculating elephant like an anti-aircraft missile? But no, perhaps because it’s more absurd than disgusting, Gord trying to tap into his creativity by chanting a monotone “Daddy, would you like some sausage?” has probably become the most infamous scene from an already infamously terrible movie.


5. “They’re eating her…,” Troll 2

Troll 2 is so terrible it even has a documentary (Best Worst Movie) chronicling its terrible-ness. But the truth about Troll 2 (which happens not to really be a sequel to Troll, or have much at all to do with it, really) is that, unlike Freddy Got Fingered and Showgirls, Troll 2 doesn’t have a litany of delightfully terrible sequences to choose from, and is comparatively forgettable. But the scene in which Arnold (Darren Ewing) witnesses a girl turn into plant matter, and reacts…accordingly(?) is definitely one for the books.

This one also has a dubstep remix!


6. Basketball scene, Catwoman

Catwoman is cited by many as the film that single-handedly killed superhero movies starring women, a genre which has been basically non-existent until next year’s Wonder Woman film (finger’s crossed, everyone). Here, a newly powered Catwoman (Halle Berry) goes one-on-one with her love interest, played by Eric Roberts. I think what they were going for is light-hearted and sexy, but the result defies not only logic, but spatial relativity, from a point-of-view shot where Berry is awkwardly shaking her booty to the confusing rapid fire cuts. Why, God why, are there so many cuts?


7. “Hi doggy!,” The Room

The Room is more a collection of surreal one-liners than scenes with intent or purpose. With that in mind, which do I go with as the most rotten moment? The “I definitely have breast cancer” scene? Or perhaps, even more memorable, “Everyone betray me!” (Watch it above.)

But I have to go with “Hi doggy!” for being the scene that wholly embodies the strangeness of The Room. Aside from the fact that the scene doesn’t really need to be in the movie, it looks like the crew only had this flower shop available to shoot in for ten minutes, and the rushed, surreal nature of the clipped dialogue just puts it over the edge.


8. “Turkey Time,” Gigli

And thank you, Jennifer Lopez, for basically ensuring that the boyfriends of an entire generation of women would never, ever go down on them. Alternately, if you’re not a fan of oral sex and want to make sure he never tries, this line is guaranteed to kill any mood, possibly forever.


9. Peter Parker dance, Spider-Man 3

When people want to explain why Spider-man 3 was the worst of the Spider-Man movies, perhaps the worst of any movie, this is the go-to example for why. People generally enjoyed Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man run for its ability to straddle a line between dramatic realism and comic book-y chicanery, but this scene alone brought the whole franchise dangerously close to Batman & Robin territory.


10. “Stop lubricating the man,” Transformers

Personally, I don’t think this one gets enough credit for the awful moment it is. Beloved character actor John Turturro gets pissed on by a precocious mute giant space robot named Bumblebee.

Oh, there are many terrible moments in later Transformers films, and yes, most of them do involve John Turturro…

But the first time I saw the Bumblebee golden shower scene, I legitimately thought I had dreamed it until a friend reminded me of its existence days later, including the little “byooiing!” as his…lubricant cap pops off? Truly, this was a landmark of badness.

Kick back with The Matrix Revolutions this Friday at 8P on IFC!

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John C. McGinley -Photo Credit Kim Simms/IFC

Necessary Evil

Get Freaky With New Stan Against Evil Photos

Stan Against Evil haunts IFC starting November 2nd at 10P with back-to-back episodes.

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From the warped minds behind The Simpsons and The Walking Dead comes your next horror comedy obsession.

Stan Against Evil employs ghoulish horror and pitch-black comedy that’ll both tingle the spine and tickle the ribs. And before the demon-possessed festivities kick off Wednesday, November 2nd at 10P ET with back-to-back episodes, we’ve got a glimpse at stars John C. McGinley and Janet Varney as mismatched small New England town sheriffs Stan Miller and Evie Barret who find themselves pitted against witches, demonic goats and other bizarre horrors.

Check out the Stan Against Evil stars — both living and undead — in the brand new photos below. Follow Stan on Facebook and Twitter for more updates as we approach the scarifiying November 2nd premiere.

Janet Varney Stan Against Evil

Witch Stan Against Evil

Book Stan Against Evil

Demon Stan Against Evil

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