Interview with SGL of VELVET CACOON conducted by J.B. Bauer of Full Moon Productions, August 2004.
1.) Greetings SGL… Although Velvet Cacoon has been in existence since the autumn of 1996 and you have already recorded and privately released somewhere around five full-length albums and nearly an equal number of demos, all of which have only been minimally spread to a small circle of your close contacts and friends, you have decided to release your sixth(?) full-length album “Genevieve” “publicly” through Full Moon Productions (U.S.A.). This will be Velvet Cacoon’s first recording to ever be available to the general “underground”, correct? Why have you decided to officially release something through a label, and why now, after nearly eight years of complete anonymity?
Yes, "Genevieve" is the first proper release we have given to any of our recordings. The reason we have kept everything to ourselves up until this point is because we have no desire to spread those older recordings. We don't think they are any good so we kept them to ourselves until we had a consummate work which was worth the material it's pressed on. When the subject of releasing "Genevieve" came up, our sentiment was basically one of "why not?" It is the epic of Velvet Cacoon.
2.) Why did you choose to work with FMP in particular, and how did this deal come about? Are you currently, or have you been, in contact with any other labels?
I forget how it started exactly, but a friend of Jon's and myself began discussing a possible release sometime around late spring I believe. Shortly thereafter, Jon contacted us and expressed interest and from there it all worked itself out. We chose FMP because it is one of the few respectable labels in the States (alongside Blood Fire Death). We had been contacted by several other labels but we knew of FMP's work in the past and the quality releases they have done so it was an obvious choice. Many of the labels who contacted us are somewhat new and small and while it's always great to support those who are flourishing and establishing themselves, we felt this was not the proper time to act as guinea pigs for a recondite label - at least for the release of this album.
3.) While some who read this may have heard the name “Velvet Cacoon” before, most have probably not been exposed to your music yet… First of all, what is the significance of your band name, “Velvet Cacoon”, and secondly, how would you describe the music, atmosphere and aura of Velvet Cacoon to someone who has yet to experience it?
The name originated back in 1996 when we formed the band. Velvet is one of many names applied to the chemical dextromethorphan, and CACOON are the initials of a catacomb just outside Portland city limits where we usually go to write music. Contrary to the popular misconception, it is not a misspelling of "cocoon". The music of Velvet Cacoon is quite diverse, primarily because we are not strictly a black metal band. Our earlier releases were very lo-fi and chaotic black metal, then we went and did a purely experimental album with all sorts of paranormal recordings. After that, our sound began to take its current form. The album prior to "Genevieve" which is called "Music for the Cold Sea and the Sleeping Northwest (December Star Embassy Vol. I)" is all deep ambient and pellucis drones. "Genevieve" is thick and hypnotic black metal with ambient undercurrents drifting slowly like cold syrup. Lot's of repetition. "Genevieve" is not a good album to listen to if you want immediate results. It was designed to be very deep and enveloping. We generally conceptualize our music a long time in advance before even writing any music. We walk through cold caves and the deep woods to gather our inspiration and formulate a concept of what we want to create with sounds. The concept for the December Star Embassy trilogy began around 2000, but we weren't ready to record anything for it until the winter solstice of 2003.
4.) Velvet Cacoon currently consists of two members, although you were originally a three piece. What is your current lineup and what happened to your third member? Is it true he is now dead/deceased? Will Velvet Cacoon always remain as it is now with only two members or would you ever consider adding an additional member(s) if the right individual(s) was found?
SKV was our drummer in the early days. One night he was out in the Cascade mountain range and apparently didn't have enough blood in his alcohol and he tumbled down to his death. It was nothing to mourn as he hated life, but vowed never to replace him and Velvet Cacoon would always be myself and LVG. We have 2 people who help us out with live shows but they are not part of the band. LVG and myself have a very accurate understanding of the vision we want to create with this music, so the actual song writing process is gratifying and there is no need to distort our clarity by bringing in a 3rd member. This band has too much history to bring in any fresh blood.
5.) What is your main drive and/or intention with Velvet Cacoon? Is there a message you wish to spread or is it purely a creative outlet (or both/neither/something else)?
"Music For Falling Buildings" was our last message driven release. Since then, it has become a much more grand form of art which needs no literal message, only an audial message to be defined by the listener. The music we make is, as you said, a creative and artistic outlet which serves to quench my own desire to create and nothing more. What people gather from our music is of no concern to us.
6.) What can you tell us about “Genevieve”? When, where and how was this album written and recorded?
The actual songs themselves were written out on the Pacific Ocean in the winter of 2004. We needed a retreat after recording "December Star Embassy Vol. I" because our minds were so hazed from the drug use so we took our boat out for a night at sea with nothing but some jugs of cheap red wine and a couple of old acoustic guitars which had been sitting around in our studio. This album, just like all of our previous albums, was initially written on acoustic guitar. In February we began laying the groundwork for the album. We started with the ambience. We draped layers of thick ambience and drones all over the tapes and began to morph them until they sounded very alienating and distanced. From there we recorded the actual guitar which is recorded by distorting sounds picked up through water. We split the guitar recordings into 3 separate tracks then we braided the sounds together so that each track slowly rises and falls in and out of each other, the way waves in the ocean do. This helps to create a very lulling sound which is what we were looking to achieve.
7.) “Genevieve” was actually recorded in your own, private studio, correct? Have all recordings of previous Velvet Cacoon material taken place here? What can you tell us about your studio itself (where is it located, what does it look like, etc.), and what sort of equipment and instruments do you use? Some of the equipment dates back to the 1950's… Is there a certain sound you can achieve with these antiquated instruments and equipment that you cannot capture with modern instruments?
Our studio was finished in mid 2000. Everything recorded before then was done at various studio dumps which is evident in the sound. The studio we have now is located in the foothills of northwest Portland in an old beat up building which we now own. We're constantly expanding and refining it with instruments which are decades old. These appeal to us much more than the equipment which comes out these days. The older stuff has a much more authentic and warm tone, the tape analog stuff is great for this kind of music and even moreso for ambient. Everything these days is digitalized which gives a slick sound but the downside is all these sounds are very hollow and synthetic feeling. With the old analog equipment you get a much more sincere sound and that works to our benefit.
8.) It sounds as if “Genevieve” was recorded underwater in a deep, numb and sleeping, surreal state of frozen black consciousness… Several of your song titles, such as “P.S. Nautical” and “Avalon Polo”, also allude to water. Can you elaborate on this connection?
That's a perfect description. The album is the 2nd recording in the December Star Embassy trilogy, and the only recording in this set which is black metal. The trilogy themes are fog, sea, and winter. "Genevieve" is the album of the sea, so everything had to be aligned with that atmosphere. Much of the ambience we streamlined into the songs are location recordings of the sea which we amplified and delayed until they took on a very mesmerizing and somnolent sound. Both LVG and myself have an affinity for the ocean and all of its mystery. It is comforting to us. Think of "Genevieve" as a soundtrack to desolation and isolation in regards to drifting beneath the surface of a pitch black sea at night.
9.) Contrary to practically any other album in existence with vocals (Black Metal or otherwise), the vocals on “Genevieve” are significantly low in the mix. Instead of having them in the foreground like on a traditional album, you have “drowned out” your vocals and seemingly blended them in with the music, treating them as if they were another instrument or layer in the music… What inspired this idea?
I've always disliked the idea of using vocals as a message in black metal. I like to believe vocals are an essential part of the music rather than acting as a narrator telling a story or preaching a view. My vocals are simply another instrument. Some people dislike the fact the vocals are so bizarre sounding, almost whispered, but many people have been trained to expect a certain sound from black metal. We have denied all expectations and standards.
10.) You also use a drum machine instead of a real/human drummer on “Genevieve”. Was this decision made due to SKV’s death? Can you describe your use of the drum computer/machine? If anything, your drum programming sounds more like a constant pulse or heartbeat, pumping and circulating blood throughout your music, rather than a normal “drum beat”…
A real drummer would ruin our sound. We do not want a "live" drum sound, we want something very calculated. The heartbeat reference is interesting as that is the idea we had in mind. We actually wrote a song called "Buried Hearts" using heartbeats as the rhythm.. perhaps we will do a full album like that someday. The reason the typical pop song uses a standard paced beat is because it is what most humans can identify with. That is the rhythm of life, the sound we all heard for 9 months in the womb. What we do with our sound is speed it up then sink it down. Where most black metal bands' drum sound sounds like utter racket, we sink the snare and draw out the bass drum to create what almost sounds like a sped up heartbeat, and this accents our music perfectly.
11.) Velvet Cacoon has been associated with ecoterrorism and the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) organization in the past. Can you explain what this organization is about and why you support its ideals? Why have you chosen to link yourselves to this organization instead of just carrying out these views personally?
Ever since I can remember, I have had a strong opposition to big business global rape. Portland is basically the heart and soul of ELF, and many people reading this interview will have no interest in the ideologies which drive ELF, and those who do have interest are most likely well aware of what ELF represents. I really do not want to get too deep into personal affiliations with this group for obvious reasons, but I can explain a little about ELF. It is a group of people who are spread out all over the world, although most members live in the North American regions. The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of ecoterrorism and environmental radicals who stop at nothing to punish those who deface this planet to satiate their own greed. We stand up for what we believe in, and we act on our convictions. We are proud to use violent acts to make our message heard loud and clear, and we encourage others to do the same. Sadly, most people are far too myopic to have any interest other than what is right in front of their face.
12.) ELF also has a sister organization known as ALF (Animal Liberation Front), which carries out a similar agenda to ELF, although ALF’s target are those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals. In addition to ELF, do you also share any of ALF’s views and ideals? It seems these beliefs would go hand-in-hand to a certain extent…
We share some of their ideals, but we also disagree with a lot of what ALF stands for. LVG and myself are both carnivores. We believe the universe created many animals for human consumption, as well as a belief that the universe created humans for consumption of larger mammals. With our intelligence we have topped the food chain and sort of found a loophole around that. If our intellects matched that of, say, a bear, then we would most definitely be the victims of their hunger on a much more regular basis. However, we do not agree with the unethical treatment of animals. Labs which test products and pharmaceuticals on animals are fair game for all in ALF and ELF to devastate with violence. We also oppose hunting for sport. Hunting for food is one thing, but hiding behind a tree with a rifle to snipe off an unsuspecting and, obviously, unarmed animal is hardly a sport.
13.) Oregon is notorious for its dreary, gloomy days and extensive rain and murkiness throughout various parts of the year. Your music can be described as sharing many, if not all, of these same qualities. Is this merely a coincidence or do you feel your immediate surroundings have a significant impact and influence on your music?
It is not a coincidence. It's very cathartic for us. Portland is about 45 minutes west of the mountains, and 45 minutes east of the Pacific Ocean. It is a good sized city in a valley surrounded by rivers and pine forests. It's the perfect place for us, and the constant rainfall and greyness suits us well. I believe we cannot help but to be influenced by the dreary conditions which we live in. The landscape here serves as our inspiration and temple. We often head up into the mountains in late autumn for a few days at a time to get away from all traces of society and reconnect with the moon and stars.
14.) A Velvet Cacoon webpage, in addition to several other informational band webpages, is hosted by Blazing Productions on their website (http://www.blazing.ws). How did this collaboration come about and what does it entail?
It entails nothing really. The guy who runs Blazing Productions contacted us and offered to host our site and we agreed. It is the only website which is authorized by us, and the only one which is a work of nonfiction. Any official news/updates from the band will be posted there.
15.) According to your biography on the Blazing Productions website, in the year 2000, you “…developed a guitar which functions off of the collected pressure of gasses from the flames of diesel gasoline instead of traditional electric pickups…” Exactly how is this diesel gasoline-powered guitar setup, how does it function and how was this unheard of idea conceived?
We have always enjoyed seeking out new ways to create sounds. Afterall, creation is the most satisfying process of our art for us so we take great strides to think independently rather than stick to a standard. We have used all sorts of odd creations to make music, especially on our "Velorum" album. On the subject of the instrument in question, I will let LVG explain the actual technicalities.
LVG: The guitar itself is actually made out of steel. It was created for us by a craftsman in Seattle. We needed a guitar made of metal because diesel fuel, flames, and wood are not a great combination, especially in an uncontrolled environment such as a concert. With this guitar, we drilled 33 holes from back to front and inserted small silver tubes through the back. All of these tubes are connected to small wires which carry the fuel to the base of the tubes. 3 large steel braces seal the top of the tubes (which are just under the strings), and on each brace is a homemade pickup which was created by d.Marvin of the Baltimore dark ambient project Vienke. When the flames come up through the tubes and heat the bottom of the coils it charges the pickups and transmits the resulting sound through a band of fiberoptic cords into a large aquarium. We change the size of the aquarium if we want a different sound. A 15 gallon aquarium gives a very active sound with lots of distinction and sharp action. For the recording of "Genevieve" we used a 75 gallon fiberglass box filled with water, a few gallons of seawater, some wine, and a bit of SGL's blood. This wasn't for sound reasons, obviously, but for our own sanity. The 75 gallon box, however, certainly was for sound reasons. This creates a very still and deep ambience to the tones, a thick and murky sound. These sounds are then recorded and distorted until we are satisfied. We didn't want it to sound overwhelming though. We wanted it to bear traces to an electric guitar, but the secret is in the subtleties. In the middle break of "1" we stripped all distortions from the guitar lines, then slowly layer back on various distortions so if you want to hear its natural sound, listen to that.
16.) As you stated, you have experimented with numerous odd and bizarre sounds and recording techniques with Velvet Cacoon. In the past, you have incorporated satellite recordings, EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon/paranormal recordings), underwater blurbs and one of your older songs, entitled “A Nocturnal Arrangement for the Ambient Planet”, is a “22 minute long aural composition complete with submicro and macro atonals humming and droning, following medical evidence to put the listener into deep hypnosis/mesmerization, then into effortless slumber.” Can you tell us a little more about the layers of drones that exist deep beneath the surface of “Genevieve”? Are there any other recording techniques that you used on “Genevieve” that you find particularly interesting?
In keeping with the theme of the sea on "Genevieve", we used the drones as an undercurrent, very thick and heavy washes of sound which rise and fall very slowly. For a black metal album, "Genevieve" is very easy to drift into or even sleep along with due to how this undertow of sound subliminally sweeps the conscious mind away from familiarity. Our recording technique is nothing new for us. We only record during the night, and only while severely drugged. For this recording, we had plenty of odd lights installed in our studio which alter shades every 10 seconds or so to psychologically pull ourselves further away from awareness. It's hard to really remember the nights when we recorded this album because we were both so intoxicated. LVG and myself were almost always recording at separate moments. It was a very surreal atmosphere to be in. We had several glass jars of powders which we had previously segmented into individual doses, and as each drug would wear off I remember playing back the tapes from hours before and hearing guitar lines and vocals which I had no recollection of happening. In all total we had about 8 hours worth of material which we then whittled down to what is on the album.
17.) Scientific research and studies have proven that music can influence the human mind. I recently came across an article that stated the University of California-Irvine had students listen to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major for ten minutes and then take an Intelligence Quotient test. The students scored eight to nine points higher when listening to Mozart compared to silence or a relaxation tape. As you know and have experimented with, various tones and frequencies can affect the mind, but do you think it is possible to influence someone’s actions (whether it be to commit acts of violence or otherwise) and thoughts through the use of music without spoken word? And although our technology may not be at this point in time yet, do you think the not-so-distant future will hold many breakthroughs in this area?
Yes, things like this are incredibly fascinating to me. I've always been interested with sounds and their role in the human mind. Around 2000 is when we became seriously involved with the idea of incorporating this into our music. We were sifting heavily over medical and science journals day in and day out to understand the effects certain tones, frequencies and pulses have on our minds. Our last few albums have been heavily laced with our understandings of these sounds, which, as I stated earlier, is the reason this album has such a drifting sound to it. As for whether music can influence or even fuel someone's actions or thoughts, I certainly believe so. I occasionally hear back from people who write and tell me about our music influencing them to do all sorts of things. Some of the things I hear from these people are very interesting to say the least. Sound is definitely the most influential of all the senses.
18.) You have openly stated that you are not Satanists. Seeing as how the term “Satanist” is rather broad, can you elaborate on this? Are you involved in the occult at all? And if not Satanism, what integral parts, themes and ideologies does Black Metal consist of for you/Velvet Cacoon?
Nothing matters aside from catharsis. The feeling of catharsis is what true people seek out. The problem is that virtually nobody is true anymore. Politics, religion, stock markets... It are these manmade things which people obsess over that is ruining everything. It is why people are loading up on anti-depressants and therapy sessions. Mankind created this demon of a system and most people are too busy on their cellphones to realize that this demon they feed and fund is the same thing that has ruined them. I can neither help nor save them. Misanthropy is the nautical map of my life. It has brought me true catharsis.
I was created from the universe, from the stars. That is a very massive thing, all encompassing. The stars created it all, fruit, human emotions, black metal, everything. My interest lies purely in the natural and the timeless. Observing the stars, the forests, this is life. It is not about sports, guns, sex, or tv. I have not let my surroundings jade me nor break me for I am too strong for that. I am a tool of the universe which created me. Every thought the universe gives me is translated through my mind, and I am well aware of this as it is the only way I know to live. Everything I do is what the stars have me do, and it is done with celestial purity - not filtered through designer clothes, false identities and ego. I view humanity in a universal way, the same way humans view ants. We are all very incredibly insignificant.
Those anti-Christians who claim they are fighting some (nonexistent) war are the true victims. They have fallen into the trap of giving manmade things like Jehovah too much credit. They claim to hate and be waging war on something that doesn't even exist. They are confused. Those who must always be waging war on something are the ones who are already defeated. The more they attack Christianity, the more they validate it. Religion is manmade and I will not waste my life arguing another man's religious fantasies. Satanism is childsplay, and life is solidarity away from the sheep, Christian sheep and Satanic sheep alike.
We have no ties nor interest in the occult. We are not interested in religion. Christianity, Islam, Satanism, whatever, are symbolic of human weakness. I believe in the universe. I believe something, which humans cannot possibly comprehend, created the universe in its very infancy. Perhaps the entire universe is a single atom in a greater being. Perhaps each of the cells in our bodies are universes themselves in which billions of stars and galaxies exist. Perhaps there are different versions of Earth from both distant and future time periods occurring right now inside of ourselves. Perhaps there are advanced beings which live deep in the dark pits of space. Ion fields which cannot be seen yet exist, advanced forms of ourselves, beings which can communicate with us through dreams, paranormal experiences, or bizarre thoughts. Perhaps our emotions are actually the result of an alien language which is present; we just lack the ability or understanding to communicate back to them. There are many ways to approach these ideas, but they are entirely overwhelming. What you have to do is sit back and laugh at it all, the prodigious nature of nature itself. I confess to being enthralled with the darker things in life, but to me, the occult and any religion, including Satanism, cannot be taken seriously. I've actually heard some people refer to us as "grey metal" in light of our disinterest towards Satanism, which is actually a bit justified. Even I call our band black metal at times, but in reality I do not believe our recent material falls into that category. Perhaps we are a different breed of music all together.
19.) You claim you have no ties or interest in the occult, although your response(s) and esoteric ways of thinking and topics of interest clearly contradict this. Perhaps I should not have lumped the question about your interest and involvement in the occult into the same question concerning Satanism, due to the common misconception that the occult = Satanism = religion, and that they are all one in the same, but the broadest (and most literal) definition of the word “occult” is “that which is beyond the realm of human comprehension; inscrutable; hidden from view; concealed, etc.” which is basically your response to the previous question, almost word for word. Although you may not agree with the wording and label yourselves as such, your fashion of thought is most certainly esoteric and Velvet Cacoon could definitely be considered occultists to a certain degree…
Also, your sentiment about Satanism being “child’s play” and “Satanic sheep” makes perfect sense for what you are referring to, although you seem to be interpreting Satanism the way the media portrays it. The type of “Satanism” teenagers “practice” with their friends in the ditch behind their school… Interpreting the symbols used in left-hand paths as being literal, like worshiping and giving praise to a horned “Lucifer” that holds a pitch fork and dwells within the Earth, or something equally as childish and comical. In fact, many of the ideals you have presented in this interview alone could be considered Satanic, whether you do or not, although I do not blame you for distancing yourself/Velvet Cacoon from this term due to its preconceived/misconceived image of being too literal by most.
I suppose, but such a broad definition would make everyone an occultist on some level. (Yes, you are right, but as stated in the question, this is the absolute broadest definition of the word I could come up with, which does not even scratch the surface of occultism concerning occult practice, magickal paths and systems and so on and so forth. – Ed.) I mean there are things in the bible which convey to its readers that that which is beyond the gates is also beyond human comprehension. I'm sure every person with a decent grip on the universe and astronomy would be an occultist as well by that definition. You'll rarely meet someone who claims to know everything about the universe and it's creation as well as our meaning for existence, so I guess all of us are occultists by such a broad definition because so much is beyond the realm of human comprehension. To me, "occult" seems to be another word many black metallers latch on to in order to give themselves more of an identity. The same can be said with this new age Satanism that seems so popular these days. Basically these people are atheists (or agnostic, even) who simply choose to call themselves Satanists since it is an anti-Christian view - I know lots of people who are opposed to Christianity but this does not automatically qualify them as a Satanist. Some people seem to think worshipping yourself is Satanism, but I think that's absurd. Satanism gains a new definition every day but to me, it is a representation of pure evil. Satanism is the embrace of utter perversion and immorality. Most black metallers may write lyrics about goats and dead nuns and all that, but what is it other than poetry? These people are not committing actions like we are. That is what separates us. We believe in what we represent, and we are not afraid of any Christian fueled law or authority which says to us "You are wrong." We believe ourselves to be right, so no threat of punishment or incarceration is enough to stop us. Tell that to any common "Satanist" these days and he would gladly pass up on his supposed ideologies in order to spare him his "freedom".
20.) Another view you hold that many would consider atypical is that you support asexuality and abstaining from sex, etc. Can you explain why you support this belief?
I have no interest in neither sex nor love. It doesn't offer me anything, although I am a bit of a misanthrope so it should be known that I am rarely beguiled by other humans. I have no interest in procreation, personally. I do not oppose the life cycle continuing, but I have no interest in taking part of the process. To lust for the flesh of another being is illogical for us. We prefer carving flesh, not kissing it, and we do not need to be validated by another human being. I am content with my existence, and I savor my solitude. Your mileage may vary. This lifestyle is not for everyone. Many gain no satisfaction from this type of isolation.
21.) Lyrics are not included in the “Genevieve” CD insert and the overall packaging for “Genevieve” is quite simplistic. I know you were given complete freedom by FMP to basically do whatever you wanted with both your music and with the packaging of your album, but you chose to do something very basic and minimalist with the layout. Why was this decision made and can you provide some insight into your lyrics and song titles?
The image really isn't all that important to us. If we had our way we would just ship out the CD with no art whatsoever, but I presume that wouldn't be a very good idea for FMP. We really have no concern about the album art as the focus should be on the music. The album cover features a lone tree enveloped in fog and I believe this is a fair representation of the music contained within. The lyrics are not included because they are my own personal messages to the stars. As I said earlier, I use my vocals as an instrument, not a narrative. The only message one will gather from this album is through experiencing the climate of the music. The words themselves are of no importance, but the atmosphere is crucial. This album is about being miles below the surface of the cold sea, in pitch blackness. This is a very bleak recording, and so is the message.
22.) The sole word “dextromethorphan” appears in dark gray on a pitch black background on the back panel of the “Genevieve” CD insert. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the ingredient present in cough syrup and cough medicines that induces psychedelic effects when consumed at sufficiently high doses. Why did you decide to devote an entire panel of the “Genevieve” CD insert to dextromethorphan and would you consider DXM to be Velvet Cacoon’s “drug of choice”?
It can be found in cough medicines, but we obtain dextromethorphan powder through a pharmaceutical research company. It is easier to pack the chemical into capsules and swallow them whenever needed. Dextromethorphan is a dissociative, like ketamine and pcp. It offers a very profound experience, granted you can handle large enough doses. This is definitely our drug of choice and we are quite taken with the mental addiction. Personally, I have been using this chemical for 14 years now and my tolerance has become a thing of legend amongst those I know. Devoting an entire panel to this drug still does not do it justice in light of what it has done for us. We never record or play live unless our blood is polluted with this chemical. The 18 minute ambient composition "Bete Noir" which appears at the end of "Genevieve" is designed specifically for the experience of this chemical.
There are different worlds to explore. You must be intrepid in order to take a large enough dose of this and hit the upper 4th Plateau. These drugs enlighten us by opening new channels of thought which the sober mind cannot help but ignore. Drugs open hidden doors and allow new patterns and modes of thought to be initiated and implemented. We view drugs not as a source of fun and a tool to numb, but as a teacher. We will not use these drugs forever, only until our lesson has been learned, then we will begin the next phase of existence where we will continue our pursuit of attempting to understand what this is all about. This strange existence.
I should clarify, for those who don't know, what the 4th Plateau is. The experience falls into one of five categories, Plateaus 1-4, and Plateau Sigma. The 4th is where we prefer to keep our heads as often as possible. It is the dose nearest death. It is when full body anesthesia kicks in and out of body experiences as well as near death experiences occur. You lose all color in your vision and you experience the incredible and unspeakable. I am very fascinated with out of body experiences and surreality; it is like delving into a completely new world. Those who use this drug frequently can certainly hear that "Genevieve" has a sound that feels similar to the drug, a very intentional measure. I could write a book here about my experiences with this chemical, but these things are best kept in the sanctity of my own mind since it is so hard to truly translate into words an experience like the upper 4th Plateau. I highly recommend everyone experience it once in their life. Everyone should live for the art of experience, because people will continuously discover things which they never thought they desired yet subliminally craved all along.
23.) What does the unusual “Genevieve” CD face design that you chose, depicting an octopus surrounded by twelve roman numerals, like those on the face of a clock, represent and how does it relate to Velvet Cacoon?
The octopus arms tell 8 narratives of time, the 8 movements of "Genevieve". The worlds created by the 7 songs, and the 8th narrative being the experience one endures after the Bete Noir. It only really makes sense in the context of using the album as a soundtrack to the true dissociative experience. The 8th narrative is when all music is absent yet the feelings evoked from the music continue to morph and persist in a way more potent than even if music was still playing.
24.) Velvet Cacoon has played a number of live shows throughout the years. Roughly how many shows have you played and have these shows all taken place local to you or abroad? Where have these shows been held (in venues or outdoors, etc.) and how would you describe your live performance? Do you utilize the diesel gasoline-powered guitar when performing live?
It's been over a dozen shows, most of which occur at warehouses in Portland. We have played in Utah and Washington as well. Our live performance is fueled by self mutilation, drug use, and bloodletting. We really lose ourselves in a live setting. In our normal reality both LVG and myself are very mellow and laid back types but when we get on stage everything which we have bottled up comes uncorked and violence ensues. Being on stage is the only time I crave drinking blood, lust to cut myself and enjoy the feeling of my own arms burning. Something takes over our minds and bodies, it may very well be a possession of sorts, but I doubt it. I believe it has to do with the way dextromethorphan interacts with large amounts of adrenaline. Combining these two chemicals leads to very intense behavior. I black out during most of our live sets and I can only understand what happened if I am shown pictures afterwards. The perception which surrounds us these days is unreal. Consequently, all of our shows must be held in warehouses because most venues in this city know who we are and what we are about. In a politically correct city like this, we are hated by all; even the other black metal bands from here. They go around telling people they know us and how we're a bunch of bratty kids. It's amusing because we have never met any of these people at all. I am 32 years old myself so I think if they want to continue bragging that they know us they should get their lies straight. It seems gossip and rumor spreading are very common activities within black metal and that is one reason we choose not to associate with any black metallers. Some of the rumors we hear about ourselves are outrageous. It is of little concern to us, although we are humored that people would spend their time making up stories about us.
25.) Many rumors and controversy surround Velvet Cacoon. I have personally heard everything from you being called hippies to homosexuals to Nazis to evil little gnomes who live and hide out in the middle of the forest(!?). Up until now, many individuals have even believed Velvet Cacoon to be a “hoax” band, due to the fact they have been unable to obtain any of your material, even with the internet at their disposal. Why do you think these rumors and controversy surround Velvet Cacoon? Is it because of your unconventional ideas and beliefs in a style of music (Black Metal) that is so strict, narrow-minded and refining that it is now, for the most part, stagnant? Perhaps people have just taken out their frustration on not being able to obtain your previous recordings by spreading ridiculous, childish rumors? What are your thoughts on these rumors and, just for a laugh, what is the most absurd, far-fetched one you have heard about Velvet Cacoon?
If I had a penny for every rumor I've heard about us I'd be a rich man. From my observation, most of these hoax allegations come from other USBM bands. Most likely these rumors spread because of our general attitude towards these USBM groups. We're not afraid to say what's on our mind. In this type of climate, everyone is forming black metal support circles to console each other and make themselves feel important. We don't need to subscribe to such behavior, though, because our music can stand on its own two feet without forming some herd to act as a crutch, and that seems to annoy many. They get offended we don't do tons of interviews and release a new demo every month. I guess by their standards that makes us a hoax. I guess since we're not a cancer to quality music we're phonies. These people think individuality is a crime. We're not 'in-the-know', we're not friends with other black metal bands, we're nothing they expect us to be. I also believe many are offended with our views. They feel we are imposing on their turf and that we are tainting some sacred essence of their precious scene-rules or some ridiculous hot air like that, so they assume making up a few rumors will chase us out. Most USBM groups are extremely frail youth who are under the notion that black metal is a talkshow for disgruntled teenagers.... we are too old for that. We aren't into all the gossip and this is exactly why, with the exception of our music, we avoid black metal as much as possible. You know, none of these people have ever confronted us in real life. These people boast big on a computer but that's as far as they can take it, so what is it? It's nothing. It's peripheral noise. I guess they think we are timid and meek children like themselves and that we will be easily scared off because of rumors spread by some kid who started a band with his Macintosh 2 months ago and is mad because nobody is sucking his cock on a chatroom. Despite all this, it needs to be said there are a few great bands from here. I won't list them because this isn't advertisement space, but they know who they are.
As for the most absurd rumor, it has to be that we are literal elves. I guess someone didn't understand what ELF was and assumed we are actually 2 foot tall people with pointy ears who live in little tree huts. Most black metallers aren't known for possessing a high IQ.
26.) Velvet Cacoon’s most recent live show, back in late April 2004, was held in a warehouse in Portland where you shared the stage with Equiloriium and The Werewolves of Venice. What can you tell us about these two bands/projects and what other bands have Velvet Cacoon played live with in the past that have stuck out in your mind? Also, on the flyer for this show it stated “graveclothes only”. What did you mean by this?
Equiloriium is a dark ambient group from Oregon. Their style is sort of like that of Aghast but much more minimal and eerie. One of the guys in Equiloriium used to have a black metal group called Leeds Landing Memoir. The other member of Equiloriium used to make dark chamber music as Ribbons of Black Blood. The Werewolves of Venice live in Oregon but all the members are originally from Italy. They play a very brutal style of black death. We have played a few times with Vienke (who also helped on some of our albums) as well, which always leads to an intense performance. Most of our live shows are performed alongside power electronics and ambient groups. We rarely share the stage with other metal bands. On the subject of graveclothes, we meant exactly that. Dress in your dead clothes, your post mortem attire, because our shows lead to big messes in a hurry.
27.) Velvet Cacoon’s performance at your most recent show was described as having an insane and incredibly intense atmosphere, complete with monolithic sub-bass drones being produced by multiple machines being operated in the background throughout the entire set, a little girl no older than the age of 10, dressed in all black, acting as a torchbearer, and a single massive torch in the center of the stage serving as the only lighting. Self mutilation (from not only the band, but also several members of the audience), blood and fire breathing also took place, and at one point during your nearly two hour long set, you were throwing up/vomiting some sort of putrid purple substance all over yourself and into the crowd while doing your vocals. You had also dashed your arms with Vodka and lit them on fire, causing your arms to smoke from the burning of your skin… Was this show recorded or video taped? Will it ever be officially released or available to the public through video tape traders? What about any of your previous gigs? And supposedly both yourself and the promoter for this show were arrested and taken into custody immediately after the show… Why was this? What happened?
Well the arrest was nothing big. It was the 8th or so time we had held a show illegally (lack of inspection from safety and fire inspectors) and I guess they were fed up with it so they took us to the police station but they couldn't do anything. This show was videotaped with 3 different cameras and we are considering releasing it as a DVD sometime. We have hours of footage of ourselves out in various places, a few interviews we did on camera back when we first formed, as well as some other random footage of the band. We know someone who is very skilled with creating DVD's and menus and all that so our plan is to head into the Cascades this winter to film a few more things and hand it all over to him to construct the DVD, but nothing is set in stone right now. As for the purple regurgitation, it is a tincture of toxic herbs a shaman creates for me. I drink it before each show to get my mind where it needs to be for a live performance. I enjoy the feeling of poison.
28.) What is the turnout like for your live shows? I understand Velvet Cacoon have a decent-sized following in Oregon… There was also talk of a small Velvet Cacoon west coast tour several months ago that would include a few dates… Any news or confirmation on this? Are you open to the idea of touring and playing live festivals in both the U.S. and in Europe (and elsewhere), if proper arrangements can be made with show promoters, etc.?
Our fanbase here is very strong. The people who support us are really into what we are about and it's evident by the turnout at our shows, but we attract more than just the typical black metaller. All sorts of insane types show up and some of them get very involved in what's going on up on the stage. Our shows are extreme, but that is the purpose. There is no point in getting on stage and not channeling the music. About the west coast tour we had planned, it didn't pan out because the only drummer we wanted was not available to make the dates. We are open to the idea of a festival so long as there is a quality line up. Playing Europe would be our first pick. Most of the feedback we get comes from Europeans and Australians. They seem to understand our music much better than Americans.
29.) Your music has a very strong hypnotic, almost narcotic, trance-inducing quality to it, evident in such Black Metal albums as “Filosofem” or even “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”-era Burzum, but even more so in the Dark Ambient genre. Are you heavily into ambient music? Is this where the influence is drawn from?
Yes. Both LVG and myself come from a background of ambient music. Our influence of actual creation structure is rooted in ambient music which we grew up with. It's much easier to use that kind of music as a soundtrack to everything in life because that music makes sense. Ambience is very universal. It exists in everything sensed by the ears, so in a way, it is the core of the audial art from which all else stems from. It is the root of it all. People like Brian Eno and Steve Roach definitely helped mold our idea of what music actually is.
30.) As far as Black Metal what do you listen to and what is Velvet Cacoon influenced by? Do you keep up with modern Black Metal at all or do you mainly listen to older material?
It's hard to say because we don't listen to black metal much. The old Evoken stuff was great. You can generally find me hovering over a glass of gin with an old Billie Holiday or Isaac Hayes record spinning. I like that really old black and white smoky and hazy jazz. It's got a good atmosphere to it. LVG is really into French pop music like Vendetta, Mano Solo, Noir Désir, Carla Bruni, Natacha Tertone, etc, but none of these I would consider influences. We are influenced by our experiences with drugs, those grey landscapes and cosmic surroundings.
31.) Thank you for your time and for participating in this interview, SGL (and LVG for the detailed description of the “dieselharp” – Ed.). Are there any final thoughts or words you would like to convey?
I appreciate the thoughtful interview. Salutations to all in ELF, here and abroad.
32.) What does the future hold for Velvet Cacoon?
Only time will tell.
33.) Is it still too soon to say if “Genevieve” will be your only “public” release or will future Velvet Cacoon recordings also be officially released through labels? Would you ever consider officially re-releasing any of your previous recordings through a label to spread them on a larger scale than what they have been, if you find there is label support as well as public interest to hear them?
It depends. If "Genevieve" strikes at the jugular and incites a new passion for this music for certain people then we may choose to sustain that by releasing another album, but it's too early to say. On the other hand, our older material is under lock and key for the most part and will stay that way for the time being. But all of our recordings have been spread to people we associate with so I imagine it's only a matter of time before these things surface in the underground. I've already seen several of our albums on various tape traders' lists.
34.) To conclude, what do you envision as the ideal visual representation of Velvet Cacoon’s music?
A great glass violin shattering on the knees of one who plays it like a deity, roaming free under a veil of uncertainty... but all is broken now. It's not childs play. You are the captain of your soul. Steer your vessel towards the unknown and experience what other men dare not.
The Official VELVET CACOON Webpage (hosted by Blazing Productions)
The VELVET CACOON “Genevieve (December Star Embassy Vol. II)” CD is out now and currently available for order from Full Moon Productions.