On the 22nd of May new kids on the USMB block Devil With No Name released their hellacious eponymous debut via New Density on an unsuspecting world. Four tracks of razor sharp, ultra-modern black metal with a Western feel and what the EP lacked in running time it made up with intense pummelling evil. Masterminded by Andrew Markuszewski, a name more than familiar for releasing three superior pure black metal albums under the banner of Avichi and his work with Chicago titans of blackened sludge filth Lord Mantis, this release was a refreshingly new blast of fetid air.
Having had the chance to play the Self-Titled EP to death prior to release, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Andrew about relocating to Arizona, the state of black metal, his creative process and most importantly his brand new project Devil With No Name.
Congratulations on the release of the your Self-Titled Devil With No Name record.As a big fan of Lord Mantis and Avichi, I was excited to see the trailer that appeared on Cvlt Nation.I read that this was has been in the works since your move to Arizona. So firstly, what inspired the move to Arizona after living in Chicago for years?
Andrew: Much thanks. Chicago has its charm. I love visiting and hopefully playing there again, but it wasn’t a place for me to live anymore. I had a sequence of bad shit happen there, was generally unhappy with my economic outlook, and I just wanted out. I’m also not a fan of its gun laws. My parents moved to Arizona 20 years ago, and I would visit every so often which made me familiar with the state. Having a better job and being able to put food in my mouth was also incentivizing. The desert has plenty of charm. Lonely as fuck sometimes, but it’s fine when you also have some misanthropy in you.
How was this project born and how did it come together?
A: I met Michael Jusko after being introduced to each other from someone who was playing guitar in Gatecreeper during one of their local shows. The guitarist commented on my DeathspellOmega hoodie, and told me about his other band Sovereign that had a Polish bass player. I met Michael pretty quickly, we got annihilated the first night on vodka, and the rest is history. Our drummer Cody Stein was also touring in Sovereign at one point, so that’s how we met.
There is always some kind of agreement or dichotomy between one’s environment and art, whether in tune with each other or something off tangent that’s 90 degrees repelling it…
Watching the short trailer for ‘Grand Western Apostasy’ with its desert references, DWNN has been dubbed a Black Metal Western. How did the surroundings play into this and was that a conscious decision?
A: I used to think that surroundings had little to play in my music, even when doing Avichi back in Chicago. I wanted to think that, but I realized a few years back that has always been completely false and short sighted. There is always some kind of agreement or dichotomy between one’s environment and art, whether in tune with each other or something off tangent that’s 90 degrees repelling it. Avichi was, at its core, an internalizing voyage and a fight or transcendence against the external. Lord Mantis is always looking for ways to get its filthy hands dirtier. Chicago was always a good place for that, but even nowadays I don’t think it matters much for Lord Mantis. That band can take its sludge and the filthy animal it’s created with it wherever it goes and infect you proper.
Devil With No Name is very much in tune with the environment it finds itself in. We are embracing this badland element. Being that it’s so harsh in areas, you can still find that untamed element easily here. I’ve been wearing cowboy boots since my early days, even in Chicago, and I felt like giving the middle finger to most of the bands in the black metal scene. Put two together and there you go.
You have previously worked in bands and as an individual. How does the creative process differ for you with Devil With No Name?
A: I’m more well-rounded these days when it comes to making music. Now I’m able to handle pre-production more effectively, and I can also edit and mix quite effectively on my own. I’d do more proper mixing if I had access to proper studios. I refrain from full digital plugin dependability. I’m old school. The old ways sound way better to me. I’ve always had the producer bug in my head, but the visions I come up with are always expensive.
Do you as band leader have final say and do you share the vision collaboratively?
A: Good ideas are good ideas, no matter who they come from. Democracies are so over-rated though.
As a follow up, the record felt very cinematic and atmospheric, how do you get yourself into the mind-set to write these songs?
A: Being who I am and where I am. Being an eternal student of music is also important. The riddle of music is real. She gives to those who are not afraid to delve.
Given all your musical projects, how hard is it to keep a thematic continuity? Do you sit down to write a song for a specific project, or do you see where it goes organically and think ‘this fits better with this project’?
A: It usually starts with the instrument I’ve decided to play, whether an acoustic guitar in certain tunings, or an electric guitar in certain tunings. Based on that I’ll end up writing a certain way that subconsciously I’m probably doing for a certain project, so I’d say I’ve largely already made the decision what it’s for before I’ve started playing.
I refrain from full digital plugin dependability. I’m old school. The old ways sound way better to me…
DWNN stands out as more modern, US (Western) take on black metal and seeks to carve its own path like your work in Avichi. American black metal seems to get a hard time when viewed against European bands, do you ever feel this pressure?
A: Oh absolutely. In the end who cares. Not me. I’m a believer in the old school American ideals of exploration and of carving out your own path.
Does that influence your lyrical approach, given that black metal is often viewed as a prism of isolation and desolation, whereas the US is regarded as the powerhouse of western industrialisation, corporatism and success?
A: I think that powerhouse is being held up by a lot of fluff and bluff these days. Still, it helps when you can print trillions of dollars overnight, and everyone still wants to own your money. Chaos as result of our current state of civilization is fine with me. Ordo ad chaos. Ordo ab chao. Starlight civilization and space travel. Then it’s time to play cowboys and aliens.
What is your comment on the current state of the USBM scene for the unfamiliar? Is there much of a sense of community or did you set out to set yourselves apart from that particular pigeon hole?
A: Most people don’t like me, and some that do are open to having a reason not to. Maybe sometimes they are even justified in not liking me. Whatever. These are people who are slaves and envious of my ability to think outside their box.
In a recent interview Satyr (Satyricon) said that he felt metal couldn’t be about religion because it’s not the right motivation. Listening to your debut (and not trying to start any inter-band strife) this is not clearly a view you share. What is your take on the motivation to create music?
A: I refuse to be a sheep and enjoy going against the grain. Music happens to be a major arm I’ve taken up in life. As much as a muse, and a means of escape, it’s also been a means of keeping me grounded.
Obviously the subject matter is deeply religious, incorporating timeless ‘classical’ notions of Good/Evil and the Devil, yet mixed with a distinctly Badlands feel that backs up the Western theme.Why is it such a fascinating subject to write about and why did you choose that particular theme?
A: It feels real, and it is real. We are all devils here. I’ve felt largely ignored in my creative pursuits over the years, so what better name for a band. I get it though, the spot light has always had limited space, and I’m not always 100% charisma. I’m not a big fan of social media, I hate playing any kind pandering card through it, so I’m attacking from a different angle. It seems to be shining. Probably because it’s real and sincere, whereas I see a lot of bands pandering to this or that newest social concern and all these medias all get coursed into the same puddle of shit. Devil With No Name is a band for devils, rebels, and conquistadors.
I refuse to be a sheep and enjoy going against the grain. Music happens to be a major arm I’ve taken up in life…
And how does the multi-faceted nature of the metaphysical sit with your philosophy?
A: It always keeps things interesting.
Your musical career has been spent at the extreme end of metal. Is this something that was a conscious decision or something you naturally graduated towards?
A: I’m quite conscious of what I’ve done and what I’ve reaped. My nature is priceless.
Given that the world is (hopefully) beginning to emerge from a global pandemic what are the future plans for Devil With No Name? Do you intend to do any live shows or a full length release?
A: We will play live. Currently writing new material now that this s/t is out. We will emerge.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, and do you have any final words.
A: Support my label New Density as it’s a kickstarter, or what we do without having to be a kickstarter, and play by the rules.
Interviewed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden