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Merciful Nuns - Interview

Interview with: Artaud Seth
Conducted by: T.V.

One of the most iconic names of goth rock scene must be Artaud Seth, the legendary frontman of the cult band Garden Of Delight, the pioneers of second wave of gothic rock and now the mastermind of superb occult post gothsters Merciful Nuns. With Merciful Nuns he recently released already the eighth album named Thelema VIII, a true enigmatic beast of darkness, mystery and occult. Beside Artaud, Merciful Nuns' line-up is comprised also of his wife Jawa Seth and Jón Tmoh. Artaud is as well one half of a duo Near Earth Orbit, together with another iconic person Ashley Dayour (Whispers In The Shadow, The Devil & The Universe), and together they are transmiting to us the message from future about the imminent apocalypse. Not only that Artaud has the immense fountain of creative inspiration, he releases almost one album in a year for more than 25 years now and he's also a guy behind the label Solar Lodge. Artaud Seth is a mysterius person and he likes to keep many things for himself, he finds his inspiration in ancient cultures, foreign civilizations and in occultism. Without any doubt, one of the most creative persons who gave to dark music maybe more than anybody else. I did an interview with this charismatic artist who revealed us many things behind the art of Merciful Nuns, their latest album, his label, his vision, occultism, philosophy and much more.

T.V.: Hi Artaud! First of all congratulations for the new Merciful Nuns album Thelema VIII. It's really a stunning album, in my opinion one of the best goth rock albums ever. How are you satisfied with it in the first place?
Difficult to say. To be honest its not important writing down the best album ever. I had to do what I have to do. The goal is to bring the global message to the audience. The rest is a matter of taste. Some like more the faster songs, other guys love the atmospheric tunes or even the pop songs. Also I don't like the term "Goth-Rock". It sounds so traditional, mostly bored and uninspired like the million of other Goth-Rock bands out there. That's not my cup of tea. But well, Thelema is a good one.
T.V.: But you can't deny that Merciful Nuns are a part of the genre and considered as one of the leading goth rock bands out there. I think that are the bands like yours who are creating the modern "goth rock" style. Don't you think so?
Artaud: Yep, but it's Merciful Nuns. I don't care about categorizing.
T.V.: Every Merciful Nuns album is different from another, and I wonder where do you see the main differencies between Thelema VIII and your previous albums?
Artaud: Thelema VIII was originally intended as a sequel to Exosphere VI. I have used similar synthesizers on Exosphere, which have once again been used extensively. The theme was also established within the depths of the cosmos, and the whole progressive process was comparable. Whilst writing the songs I found myself deviating from the parameters and hence Thelema VIII got its very own note. Even so, you can still draw certain parallels. The album's subject matter, or more specifically: is the awakening of individual will within every single one of us. Like a golden thread running through the revolutionary projection to enforce one's own will, oppose and reject oppression; determine one's own path according to one's own ideals and without compromise. Why revolutionary? Because modern society pursues coordination and synchronisation rather than individuality. "Do what thou wilt shall be the only law" – addressing individual freedom and "Every man and every woman is a star" – denoting gender equality are the center quotes of all. These tenets for gregariousness were transferred to a distant exoplanet in order to bear fruit in a dystopic society.
T.V.: As you already pointed out, Thelema VIII is based on a philosophical law named Thelema. Even though you used this thematics in this or another way before, this time everything is more straight, right to the point. Can be this album counted as a conceptual one, and beside the obvious, is there kind of a hidden meaning inside the lyrics?
Artaud: Freedom is the central theme on Thelema VIII. Freedom of the individual, in particular freedom for woman, living out one's individual inclinations and wishes; to satisfy the self and indeed the original goal of existence: personal fulfilment. This may sound abstract when taken in context to the fictitious society on Thelema VIII, yet nonetheless quite easily transposed onto our society in the present. We are here ALL but once! EVERYONE has but one chance for a beautiful and fulfilling life!
T.V.: Freedom yes, a word that is so over used. Today everybody talks about freedom and how free he/she feels, but in reality we are much more of a slaves than maybe ever before. Don't you think that humankind could have a chance of beautiful and fulfilling life only if the world order and mentality will drastically change?
Artaud: If we abolish all world religions, then corruption, greed for power and money... then yes. Otherwise not.
T.V.: Beside the occult, what else inspires you in your artistic vision?
Artaud: What is occultism? Occultism only works in an environment of a religious, mostly Christian faith. I don't have such a faith; or rather: I have the certain knowledge that God, by whatever name, does not exist! Religion is an illusion fabricated by humans and thus obsolete. However I think the inspiration comes from my curiosity about the dark side of things. I am always searching for images that combine the past and the future. I believe in cycles, the perpetual return of what has gone before and I can see parallels between the high cultures of antiquity and futuristic societies. I believe in unknown cultures, from so far back in time that there are no more discernible traces from them in the classic sense; highly advanced cultures in antiquity, perhaps even older still. Ancient advanced cultures like the Sumerians, Egyptians, Maya and their adoration for divinities from "beyond" always appear to me as an effigy of the future. By now I have arrived at the inescapable conviction that we have already been visited by these so called advanced cultures. Nowadays these visitors are worshipped as God or Gods by us.
T.V.: Do you think that so called advanced cultures you are mentioning are amongst us already or at least observing us? When do you think they will make a contact with our civilization?
Artaud: All I can say is they visit us in ancient times.
T.V.: Yet you labeled your style as occult post goth? Why so, if you say that, "occultism only works in an environment of a religious, mostly Christian faith. I don't have such a faith"?
Artaud: The word occult has its roots in the Latin occultus, meaning "hidden, secret". I use it to unveil secret knowledge and not in a way christians prefer to use.

T.V.: If we return to the album, it sounds more ambiental and atmospheric than any of the albums before. There are elements that reminds me very much to the dark ambient pioneers Lustmord. What can you tell me about this direction?
Artaud: Especially upon the second half of the album the whole song structure based upon more ambient like soundscapes. I cannot say that I was influenced by bands like Lustmord, but I like some of their work.
T.V.: I also wonder who is responsible for instrumental compositions inside Merciful Nuns?
Artaud: As with the roles within the Merciful Nuns mostly I write, arrange and produce the songs by myself. Jawa and Jón add their bass and guitar parts later on. The lyrics, concept and even the layout are usually already set, or at the very least they are available in fragmentary form. This is the only way I can stay focused on a particular topic without digressing. This is very important to me.
T.V.: I don't know if I ever came to an explanation why did you quit Garden Of Delight, and then formed Merciful Nuns. Wouldn't be easier to continue with an established name?
Artaud: The intension to split up Garden Of Delight and go on with the Merciful Nuns was to create something darker and deeper as Garden Of Delight ever could do.
T.V.: Tell me about the label you own, Solar Lodge. It differs a lot from usual record labels, and it's obvious that you follow some kind of a vision with this label.
Artaud: The Lodge is an institution and a temple for the best goth related bands worldwide. No commercial aspects, nor too much cooperation with too much people. The artist, the label, the distribution... that's all.
T.V.: You took the name of your label, Solar Lodge, from a secret society in the USA that was established in 1965, based on ideas from Ordo Templi Orientis. Where is the connection with this society and are you a member of it?
Artaud: There is no connection. Well of course I know the history about Aleister Crowley, Argentum Astrum and Ordo Templi Orientis. But to be honest it's the name itself, which I like. Solar Lodge represents the radiant power of dark tunes.
T.V.: I believe that you must follow goth related music, new bands etc. Do you have any new band in your mind that you would like to bring it to Solar Lodge? What is the criterion that a band must reach to come under your observation?
Artaud: I like bands which have a personal and unique note. And if it also sounds dark and mysterious than it could be something for the Lodge. Unfortunately it's really difficult to find good bands outside.
T.V.: Recently you inked a deal with Aeon Sable and released two of their albums. It must be obvious that you see something special in this band...
Artaud: I like to support good music. And Aeon Sable are defintely one of the best out there.
T.V.: Yeah, Aeon Sable are one of my favorite bands as well. You also did the mastering of their album. How much do you like working in the studio and what are the main specifics you want to reach with the sound?
Artaud: I have done a remix for "Visionaers" one and a half year ago. Obviously the guys liked the whole deep sound of the mix. So we had in mind for a quite longer time that I should do some post mastering stuff for their new album, Hypaerion. That's all. Nothing special.
T.V.: Almost every year, since early 90s you come out with a new album. That's really impressive! I must ask you where do you find all this inspiration?
Artaud: (laughs) Indeed impressive. Can't believe that I have done so many albums through all the decades. What can I say? Obviously I am a man with never-ending creativity. It's a gift.
T.V.: Beside being the mastermind of Merciful Nuns you also are one half of the project Near Earth Orbit, together with Ashley Dayour. I'm eagerly awaiting the third album, the last part of the trilogy, and of course I want to know some details about it if possible. Is a release date already set?
Artaud: We had a lot of work in last weeks organising the Black Easter Berlin festival as well as promoting the new Merciful Nuns album. So everything has shifted somewhat. I think that it will be relased in autumn. We will see.
T.V.: What is this thing with the lodges you have all around the world (for example Brazilian Lodge, Costa Rica Lodge, UK Lodge, Benelux Lodge,...). Who are the persons behind those and for what does it stands for?
Artaud: Currently there are 21 Lodges operating in 21 countries. We are having amassed a comprehensive and richly diverse following, with a level of interaction exceeding conventional musical horizons and regular gatherings in a global network of Lodges imbued with the scent of exclusiveness; they organise gigs, release-parties and serve as the band's mouthpiece in their respective countries. But I have in mind for quite some time to alter the structure of the Lodges. I know what I want to reform, but I am not yet sure how to go about it. The practical implementation of the restructuring still requires some tweaking and fine-tuning and will take some time before we see the results. In principal I would like to strengthen some Lodges by working closer with them. Furthermore I want to see more emphasis and value placed on content and elitist principles. And lastly I want to improve mutual cooperation amongst the Lodges; there is still room for improvement in some instances.
T.V.: Back to Merciful Nuns... On all of the albums there's kind of a minimalistic cover artwork with strong symbolism. What can you tell me about that and who is the author?
Artaud: I do all the artwork stuff by myself. Those symbols, sigils and hexagrams guide me though the journey of creating an album. For instance the frontcover of Thelema VIII showing three Thelematic seals next to the Greek letter for "Thelema" which I found on the original walls of Thelema Temple in Cefalu. Or the cover of the single "Allseeing Eye" features the symbol of the dystopic society on Thelema VIII. The symbol features a double "Victory" sign which I have crossed with the Greek word for "Will" (Thelema). Victory requires the Will. Obviously those symbols help me to get into the whole story.
T.V.: And the artwork on Exosphere VI? This one must be connected with ancient advanced cultures. Where does this symbol come from?
Artaud: You mean the "Giants"? I had those figures in mind from the very beginning of the songwriting process of Exosphere. Later on I started to create a symbol for those "giants", which I also called THEM. This ancient race will come from the future.
T.V.: Merciful Nuns are also known because of live shows. Some say that is a proper sonic ritual. How would you describe your live performance and which songs do you prefer to play live?
Artaud: Difficult to say. Of course it's a matter of taste. But also which songs are simple playable and which not. I got many questions about playing more songs from Goetia V. But to be honest most of those songs are not reproducible live. Further a show has to cover all aspects of the band. Which means we have to represent a good mixture of powerful and spherical numbers.
T.V.: Is there an album that you've released in your career that is closer to your heart and most important for you than any other? Can you also explain why?
Artaud: You mean something like a favorite album? I am very pleased with the Near Earth Orbit stuff at the moment. Also I like quite a few Merciful Nuns albums a lot, especially the last three records. And of course the Necromanteion album of Garden Of Delight which makes me rich and famous until today. Same story is with Garden Of Delight album Dawn.

"There was a simple question which has driven me: Where it all came from? Could it be that there was once a single, highly-advanced group of men that virtually kick-started the world’s first civilizations?": Artaud Seth

Merciful Nuns links: Official website, Facebook
Solar Lodge links: Official website, Facebook, YouTube

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