Monday, March 12, 2012
‘I am a false prophet, God is a superstition’
This is the interview I conducted with David of Mammon in June 2011, which was originally published in S4D#1. Mammon are a blackened doom band from Canberra, Australia, who've made waves with their demo, entitled Demiurge.
Hey David, can you tell us a bit about Mammon’s inception?
Max and I had played in bands before and were playing in a band at the time which was going nowhere. In early 2009, we decided with another friend, Tom, that we wanted to do a 3-piece metal band. From there, we basically induced large amounts of marijuana and occasionally emerged from our bong den to jam riffs. After maybe 6 months of that we got a new drummer, Ken, started smoking less weed at band practice and began to get shit done. We recorded Demiurge at the end of 2010/start of 2011 with this lineup. Ken has since gone overseas and we are now working on a new record with a new drummer, Finch, who recorded Demiurge.
While the music on Demiurge is not all together experimental or anything, I find it hard to categorise Mammon into a specific genre – there’s elements of sludge, post-metal as well as both hardcore and black metal. What have you got say about this? Was there a specific template in mind when you were writing the music, or did it just come out?
Despite being initially conceived of as a doom/black metal band, the music never took on that sort of template. We’ve retained the idea of focusing on atmosphere and of stripping the band down to its essentials but we have never played doom or black metal in the traditional sense. Instead, it has informed the ethos we have worked with. We all listen to a lot of different music and have all spent time playing in hardcore bands. As we focus our writing around concepts, we’ve been able to focus more on how to evoke and express that concept, which has allowed us to incorporate a greater variety of styles, rather than remaining reliant on a specific genre template.
In terms of style, where do you draw your influences from? Do you and the other members share a similar taste in music?
We draw from a myriad of influences, musical and otherwise. Writers such as Baron D’Holbach and Michel Onfray influence our work as much as the music of bands such as Fall of Efrafa, Burning Witch or Leviathan. We share somewhat similar musical taste. Our original drummer was heavily into black metal and doom. Ken listened to a lot more hardcore and crust, such as Tragedy. Finch is very into bands like Botch and Dillinger Escape Plan. Max and I share pretty similar taste. We’re both into doom and sludge, and I probably listen to more black metal, while he listens to more death metal, but we tend to enjoy the same bands. On the whole, I think we all tend to enjoy music that’s heavy and has a strong focus on atmosphere.
What’s the underground scene like in Canberra?
It’s very small but surprisingly fertile. There are a number of high quality bands from Canberra, such as 4 Dead, Pod People, Dead Kings and I Exist, who have all helped foster quite a healthy scene. Ultimately, though, the scene consists of a small handful of individuals, who tend to play in a number of bands – I Exist share members with Pod People and Life and Limb, who share members with Dead Kings, who share members with 4 Dead and Sense and Goodness, who share members with Mammon and The Reverend Jesse Custer.
Demiurge was released as a CD-R, which you were nice enough to send free to anybody who wanted. Did they go quickly?
We’ve sort of produced CDs as demand has required. The initial run was of 49 which we released at a show in April and we got rid of all of them that night, which was a good start. Since then I think we’ve put out maybe 85 more, which has been really positive. We’re still sending copies out, too.
What was the recording process like for Demiurge? Was it DIY or did you do it in a studio?
It was all done DIY. Finch did all the recording and we used his equipment. Drums and bass were recorded in a rehearsal room before Ken left for Japan. Guitars and vocals were recorded after that in Max and Finch’s houses. This required some pretty inventive Tetris-like manipulations of household space but we managed to work it all out. It was a more positive experience doing it DIY, because of the pride associated with having created something entirely of your own volition, rather than involving outside assistance. It was also a lot simpler.
Mammon was started with a specific concept, a concept revolving around a rigid opposition to organised religion. Can you elaborate on this a bit more?
I think that Mammon’s concept goes beyond just being a rigid opposition to religion. I would say, instead, that the concept involves the preservation and advocacy of autonomy, respect for human rights, progression of secular and rational moral discourse, and the rejection of abjection and totalitarianism. The concept is defined not only by what it stands against, but also by what it stands for: a naturalist world-view. We are opposed to intrusions by religion into all discourse – moral, social, political, or otherwise – as we believe it is an immoral force that serves to put in place an archaic and irrational form of morality that serves only to promote humanity’s enslavement and is greatly opposed to its wellbeing. It is irrational and highly dangerous, as it promotes sexism, xenophobia and a nihilistic view of life. It is conducive only to the degradation of our species.
What do you think of naturalism?
The adoption of naturalism – the view that the natural world is of the greatest importance and that the preservation of it and the beings in it must be promoted – is a moral necessity. It epitomises the rejection of religious nihilism and fatalism in this life in exchange for the lies of transcendence, and advocates the embrace and celebration of the present. In emphasising the finality, and thus the importance, of this life, it also highlights the need to fight against those who would attempt to diminish the importance of this life and destroy one’s opportunity for happiness and well-being through bigoted archaic moral principles.
While Australia is a ‘secular’ state, at least in comparison to other particular Western democracies, there are still a lot of religious elements in politics. Is there any political emphasis in Mammon’s music?
As a band we are apolitical. Obviously, though, we strongly advocate secularism and oppose the intrusion of religion and regressive religious morality into politics. While it is not something that is overtly dealt with in the music, we are all opposed towards projects such as the Schools Chaplaincy Program and the refusal to grant equal rights to homosexual relationships. Parties such as the Christian Democrats, Family First and the Protectionist Party reflect the intrusion of religious conservatism into Australian politics and show that Australia still has a long way to go in terms of becoming a truly secular state. While we do have an atheist, female Prime Minister, the continued illegality of homosexual marriage shows that Australian politics has clearly not moved away from religious dogmatism. We are instead in support of a post-Christian secularism, as championed by Michel Onfray, in which a reliance on religious dogma and practices is dismissed in favour of a worldview and value system that is derived entirely from critical analysis and rational discourse.
Demiurge’s artwork was done by an artist named Jacob Rolfe. Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the art, and whether we can expect to see Jacob working on more Mammon records?
The artwork was essentially intended to embody the visual representation of our lyrical thing. As ‘demiurge’ means creator and originator of evil, the artwork represents revealed religion to be this demiurge, in the form of a great serpent (ironically, a beast associated with the devil and evil – implying that it is truly the holy and sacred that are most evil). The snake entwined through the church emphasises this relationship. We’ll definitely be getting Jacob to work on the future Mammon records. He’s an excellent artist, as well as a friend who I’ve known for years. His work for Demiurge perfectly evoked what we wanted it to represent.
Will this general concept be a continuous aspect of Mammon?
The band name was chosen due to its religious connotations and its ironic reference to theocratic greed (that organised religion, which has created ‘God’, truly represents Mammon – the embodiment of greed) so I think that our atheism, in its anti-theistic and naturalist forms, will be a constant theme in Mammon’s music. It is something we truly believe in and believe that it is necessary to fight for.
You’ve mentioned that Mammon is recording new material. Will this be a vinyl release, and do you think Demiurge will ever re-released on wax?
Our upcoming record has gone through so many different permutations that at this point I’m almost unwilling to say anything definitive about its release. However, it is currently our intention to be releasing it as a 12” that consists of one large song broken into two sections. At this point, it’s unlikely that we’ll release Demiurge on wax; it’s more likely to get a limited run cassette release. In the future though, if we have other shorter recordings, we may release Demiurge with these prospective recordings as a collection on wax.
Do you collect vinyl? If so/if not, what’s your opinion of the format’s revival in recent years, particularly with underground music?
I think we would all shy away from being dubbed ‘collectors’ as I’m sure there are far more dedicated vinyl enthusiasts, but we certainly all pick up a fair bit. We’re all very supportive of its revival. It offers a far greater opportunity to explore the potential of artwork and packaging, allowing a more cohesive piece of work to be produced. It also requires greater commitment on the part of the listener, as there are simply more physical steps in listening to vinyl and it forces the listener to listen through the whole album, as opposed to flicking through mp3s. This promotes greater connection with and immersion in the music, as well as encouraging bands to focus more on writing entire records that can take the listener on a journey.
We’ll finish off the interview with a tried and tested method – your five favourite records.
Max (in no order):
“left hand path” – entombed
“damaged” – black flag
“LA” – flying lotus
“black sabbath” – black sabbath
“loveless” – my bloody valentine
Finch (what he’s currently listening to non-stop):
“Miss machine” – The dillinger escape plan
“You fail me” – Converge
“Nuclear sad nuclear” –The number twelve looks like you
“Manhater” – Robotosaurus
“Night Hag” – Night hag
David (five favourite records I own physical copies of):
“What it Takes to Move Forward” – Empire! Empire! (I was a Lonely Estate)
“Of Malice and the Magnum Heart” – Misery Signals
“Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum” – Deathspell Omega
“Chronoclast: Selected Essays on Time’s Reckoning and Auto-Cannibalism” – Buried Inside
“Chaos Is Me” – Orchid
Thanks for answering my questions, any final comments?
Thanks so much for the interview. It’s so heartening to see such a thriving DIY community and we’re all grateful for the opportunity that people like you have given us to be a part of it. We’re always happy to continue these discussions and speak to anyone interested in similar issues. Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com as we are always keen to further any sort of discourse around these topics. Thank you.