By: Benjie Stewart
Black metal music is a music unlike no other, with its representations of the darkness and cold and the aura of the great beast and spirit within the internal kingdom. Metal Mayhem Underground had the pleasure of speaking to a man that had to overcome the odds of his demons, a man that has decided to carry the flaming torch that is Nachtmystium. We touch on his absence from the metal scene, the new album, The World We Left Behind and all the other things people may be wondering about Blake Judd.
Metal Mayhem Underground: "Hey Blake! The first question I must ask… Why is the seventh release, The World We Left Behind, the very last Nachtmystium album?"
Blake: "Well, I have actually decided not to end the band. The time I announced that Nachtmystium was no more came after a series of really difficult issues and situations, and I decided it was time for a major change in my personal life. Nachtmystium has dominated just about every aspect of my life and has been extremely consuming of my time. With the touring band lifestyle being what it is, it caused me to get very involved with drugs. I am an addict and have struggled with substance abuse issues for years, but in the last four years or so, it got way out of control and began to ruin my life. I decided that after all the shit hit the fan, I needed to get out of the spotlight for a while, get myself some help, and start a new and more normal life. At the time, I really felt like Nachtmystium needed to end for that to happen. Now that I have had a good nine months to clean myself up as far as my drug problem goes, and have regrouped mentally and made a new life for myself, I've been able to really think about what I'm doing and where I'm going with music. Due to the immense amount of feedback I have received from fans on our Facebook page telling me how sad they were that I was bringing the band to an end, I decided that ending the band was not what needed to happen in order to live a new life. I just reprioritized how the band is going to be present in my life, and I have also decided that I will no longer be touring at all. But just hanging up the name, all the momentum and success I've had with the band doesn't seem logical to me now that I have had time to do everything I’ve mentioned. I don't really care what people say or think about my decision to continue on with the band after announcing that it was coming to an end. I'm sure some people will talk shit, but that is nothing new for me or this band. I'm looking at The World We Left Behind as the end of a chapter in Nachtmystium's history. What I do next will be something new, theme-wise and musically. I'm not sure what direction I will take, but it’s definitely going to be something new and different."
MMU: "What was your mindset going into this album?"
Blake: "The same as any other record. I focused all my attention on the record and stayed at the studio during the sessions so I could be completely focused on it. I wrote the music for almost the entire record and all of the lyrics, so I was way more involved in this record than the previous few records where other members had a more active role creatively. This album is my first record since Instinct: Decay that I've been this involved in and I am very excited about it because I really do feel it’s the best Nachtmystium album yet."
MMU: "Who produced the album, and did you play everything on the album or did you have help from other players?"
Blake: "I produced this album. Our engineer and studio owner, Chris Wisco, played a big role in helping me produce the album by offering up suggestions and ideas, many of which we wound up going with, so to some degree you could say he co-produced it with me. I played almost all the guitars on this album. The other guitarist who appears on this album, known as Scare Crow, only played a few leads on the record; the majority of the guitar work is me however, and all the rhythm tracks were laid down by me. For the main session, there were only three of us present: myself, our bass player John Porada, and drummer Sam Shroyer. All of Dustin Drenk's synth work was done from his home studio and imported to us via email. He did about 80% of the work on the album."
MMU: "Very interesting cover art for The World We Left Behind, I must say it is one of the best covers I have seen and by far the best Nachtmystium album cover. Who did the art for it and where did you come up with that?"
Blake: "Thanks for your words on the cover. I really like it as well. The art was done by my fiance, Ashley Sumner. I've known her for about a decade and she has been very close to the band since we met back in 2004, and I have always wanted to have her do an album cover for us, so we decided that this album was the one for her to do that on. She could offer up a much better explanation than I could in terms of how the art is related to the album, plus I'd like the art to speak to each listener in its own way. What I will say is that the 'exhalation' occurring on the cover is symbolic of purging a way of life, and the idea of rebirth- starting a new life."
MMU: "What are the lyrics dealing with on The World We Left Behind?"
Blake: "They are all about my life leading up to the time the record was made and when the lyrics were written. They are the most honest and direct lyrics I have ever written. I made a point to really try to enunciate in my vocal delivery on this album so they can be understood clearly. For the first time in Nachtmystium's discography, I have decided to print the lyrics as I feel that this time they are such an integral part of the record. I wanted to be sure the listeners can know exactly what the message of each song is about and what they are trying to say."
MMU: "What is with people saying you ‘ripped them off’? I am aware of some of it, but I keep a distance and never believe anything I read in the press, even though Metal Mayhem Underground is in that light now, we hold a sense of integrity and honest work ethics here."
Blake: "I fell behind on many orders in late 2012 and a lot in 2013 due to my drug problem. Orders were made or taken and never filled, or weren't filled for a long time. I admit to that absolutely. I was a fucking mess and this is one of many areas in my life that problems were arising from as a result of my drug abuse issues. Since then, I have worked extremely hard to get these old orders either filled or refunded in an effort to repair the damage to my reputation and most importantly, get my fans taken care of. I hope that through these efforts, and the fact that I have been selling merchandise again through our Facebook page, and filling orders promptly, that I will be able to achieve that goal."
MMU: "So there will not be any touring for The World We Left Behind album?"
Blake: "Correct. I am done playing live, at least for the foreseeable future."
MMU: "Is the metal scene better now or is it worse?
Blake: "I don't know, I haven't been involved in the metal scene in years. I keep to myself in my personal life, don't listen to much metal music at all these days (not new stuff anyway), and I don't attend shows, nor have I toured since 2012, so I'm the wrong person to be answering this question."
MMU: "Tell us about your other project Hate Meditation."
Blake: "Hate Meditation is my project that I use to fulfill my love for old school, by-the-books black metal. I have always had a soft spot for this style (which is how Nachtmystium started off) and Hate Meditation is my creative outlet for the music I write in this style. Our debut album, Scars, is a good example of this style. Mainly influenced by early Emperor, Burzum, early Behemoth, Gorgoroth, etc."
MMU: "What does black metal mean to you in 2014? Has black metal lost its essence? Is there even such an essence?”
Blake: "Again, I don't know what black metal is in the big picture these days. I just know what it is and means to me. It’s a musical style that I have always really enjoyed and found something special in that I didn't get from other music. It is just as important to me today as it was when I first discovered it in 1996 when I was 13 years old. Again, Hate Meditation is my project that I use to explore my obsession with the traditional black metal style and sound."
MMU: "Do you like to read? What books have you been reading lately?"
Blake: "I do indeed. I am mostly into non-fiction history books. Steven Ambrose is my favorite author and I have read most of his books, all of which are about World War II, which is the most interesting time in modern history for me. I also read a lot about the darker sides of psychology, the criminal mind, serial killers, etc."
MMU: "What is on Blake's playlist right now?"
Blake: "Albums or tracks from Awol Nation, Kiss, Burzum, Depeche Mode, Editors, Hawkwind and Saint Vitus. That is what I've been listening to recently anyways."
MMU: "Do you have a favorite Nachtmystium album?"
Blake: "This new one, definitely. I feel that it’s the perfect Nachtmystium album, beginning to end. I feel there is not a second of filler on this album. I am thrilled with every aspect of the album."
MMU: "I think you've been asked this question before, but if you could do it all over again, would you?"
Blake: "Absolutely. There are some things I'd certainly do differently, but I wouldn't want a different life for myself overall. This band has made so many dreams come true for me. It's really been an amazing voyage and has taken me all over the world. I've lived more in the last decade than most people do in a lifetime, so I'm very happy and feel very blessed to have been given the chance I have to live this life."
MMU: "Thank you so much for the interview. Any final words?"
Blake: "Thanks for interview and thanks to everyone out there who has supporting the band and have checked out the new album." ∆
Check out the new and NOT THE FINAL Nachtmystium album, The World We Left Behind, to be released August 5th on Century Media!