Black, Black Heart…לב שחור הוא לב שלם
לב שחור הוא לב שלם...Black, Black Heart
רְשִׁימ֥וֹת־תֹּ֖הוּ | BlackHearts - Pt. 1 the interview
By: Noa Artzi
Black Metal in the face of peril
Black metal is a subgenre to which almost no man can stay indifferent. You're either horribly repelled by any or all of its aspects, or you may, as in my case helplessly, as by a spell fall prey to its wonderfully dark embrace only to find that years may pass, and life's circumstances may change, but you're still as miserably and hopelessly in love as you've been on the very first day you've listened to Emperor's Anthems To The Welkin At dusk. If any of the above two hasn't occurred you, than you may have either, unfortunately been born without a soul, or that you've failed to fully grasp the whole meaning behind this whole deal called Black Metal. Because as I see it, Black Metal is the kind of thing that cannot leave you unmoved.
Indeed, much of the fear that the genre has created around itself in its early days and much of its charm stems from that very same place. When something touches someone so deeply, his soul awakens, and compels him to take extreme measures in order to do as his soul bids him do.
Anything can touch a man's soul, but if that very same thing happens to be Black Metal, then a true Blackheart is born. In the film which bears this same title, Christian Falch follows 3 Blackhearts from 3 different parts of the world, who were willing to risk it all to do as their black hearts bid them do. We follow them as they pack up their musical instruments, and head off to the north, where they shall expose their art to the local underground, just like their musical godfathers did during the early 90s.
Indeed, great and different perils do await all three protagonists on their way:
Sina risked his life enough by breaking Iranian law in order to release his music for his one man band "From the Vastlands" while still living in Iran. But then he faces a greater dilemma when invited to play at a Black Metal festival in Norway, as the exposure brought by the festival could put Sina and his family in a life threatening situation. And if he goes, he may never be able to return to his homeland.
Kaiadas is a member of the Greek Parliament by day, where he represents the far right-wing party Golden Dawn. By night he sings and plays bass for the black metal band Naer Mataron. He and his band feel a strong emotional link to Norway and Norwegian history through their passion for black metal. Naer Mataron is given the opportunity to play at a Norwegian black metal festival, but just as they receive the news, Kaiadas gets locked up for alleged association with a criminal organization. If indicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
As a longtime fan of Naer Mataron and Hellenic Black Metal in general, personally I find most interest in his side of the story. I'm certainly looking forward to the chance of getting a sneak peek into his work with Naer Mataron and moreover into his fascinating "day job".
Regardless of that, I'd totally love to have a long conversation with this guy on Hellenic politics, his far-right stance and how if any at all he sees it connecting to his art of Black Metal, I'd like to hear how they've got through the economic crisis which took over Greece a few years ago, about the help provided by Golden Dawn through donations and how, regardless of all these hardships, are the Greek still capable of creating such great art.
And last but not least, there is Hector who is a devoted Satanist and a vocalist in the Columbian Black Metal band Luciferian. His unique beliefs and occupation do not earn him much respect, to say the least, among the village's highly Catholic majority.
Hector realizes they will have some difficulties fulfilling the visa application requirements towards Luciferian's gig in Norway. He seeks counsel from his satanic mentor, the “Black Pope” in his hometown of Pereira, Colombia. They decide to organize a satanic ritual – which involves Hector selling his soul to the Devil – in order to secure their visas. Will selling his soul to Satan help Hector fulfill his dream of playing his music on Norwegian soil?
I had the honor to talk to Sina Winter and Christian Falch through e-mail. I used the opportunity to ask them a few questions about the movie and about Black Metal in general. We talked about Black Metal in Norway, Iranian history and identity and the album which changed Sina's life, which was surprisingly similar to mine, the uncanny influence of which is clearly heard on his band's debut release.
So without further ado, here's what they had to say:
Sina Winter – a voice from the Vastlands
1. Hello Sina, how the hell did you find out about the existence of Black Metal in your secluded country?
Hehe…Wait! Iran isn’t a secluded country, is it? We have our own friends, right?…but anyway, I am talking here as a musician not a politician…You know, it is a long story but to make it short I can say that I grew up in a family where my parents were fan of rock music. So, I was familiar with Rock music and later when I was a teenager I became fan of Metal music but I remember that was about more than 15 years ago. I was fan of Death and thrash Metal music in that time. And I had a friend who was living in Austria back then in that time and when he came to Iran for his vacation, he gave me a copy CD of "Burzum - Filosofem" album..! And that was the first time also the time when everything changed, you know!
Of course I know! This was the exact same album that changed my life and prompted me to write, record and overall live and breathe Black Metal as well! Incidentally enough a few months ago I've done a review of this same album for the zine.
2. I know it was a hard and dangerous decision to start making and recording music while in Iran. What made you finally do that? What was that thing that gave you the final push into the world of Black Metal?
I just want to mention that in Iran it is really complicated when it comes to metal music. The thing is if you play or record metal music just for yourself and do not try to promote your music, release it or make a show then it is not a problem (or should not be! But in some cases it was, unfortunately). Since there is no specific law about metal music, so, it makes it really confusing to know where the red lines are…Well, I remember when I listened to “Filosofem” album for the first time I found it very strange (the atmosphere of the music was so dark, unknown and mysterious for me and I remember that I listened to the whole album 5 times in a row) but it also gave me really good new feelings, something indescribable...that was the magic moment...Indeed that was the music that I found it very close to my inner feelings and I started to discover and know more about BM. It was in my dream of many years ago to start making/playing metal music but then I realized that this is my kind of music, that this is what I want to do... and I started playing guitar. then my first band in 2003 and later another project and finally "From The Vastland".
3. What were your sources of inspiration for your music? What bands, if any at all, inspired your music? How did you get hold of these bands' releases? What other things inspired your music?
Well, there are a lot of bands that inspired me but to mention a few I can say Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Mayhem, Immortal, Enslaved, Emperor...You know, generally all the early 90's Norwegian old school BM albums! But also some other bands like Marduk, Dark Funeral, Enthroned, Belenos, Behemoth... It was not easy to find the albums at that time. You know, no internet, no record shop, no CD’s... All you could find was some copy tapes and they were mostly carried by the passengers when they were going to other countries. And since there were not many Metalheads so, you can imagine how it was hard to find…
And beside the music during the years there was a lot of books that inspired me. Mostly about history and mythology because I am always interested in that kind of books and I always read about history, myths, legends and epic stories etc.
4. How did you find the people in Iran and Ukraine that helped you to make all that happen?
Well, back then in Iran when I started my first band, I was just working with my cousin and we just knew there are 2-3 other bands that started almost at the same time (They are not active anymore, as I know) but we were not in contact. So, I started to contact label companies outside the country to release my albums officially and until that time when the Ukrainian label company released the first “From the Vastland” album, I already had released all of my previous band’s albums by some other label companies all over the world, during the years. So, I was already in contact with label companies and they knew me and my project, you know.
5. I understand you've managed to release an album before through a label in Ukraine. How did you manage to do all the recordings and distribution under the tight regime of your country?
Yeah, I had released several albums from my previous band as I said. Well, when it comes to recording the albums I should say that was not easy, you know. There was no recording studio for metal music (just some underground rehearsal places) and I had to do everything in my home. And you have to keep everything almost silent like a really personal thing, you know, just to make sure that you don’t get any trouble. Better not let other people know what you are doing etc. You can imagine how it was hard to make things happen without any help or access to basic needs to record an album.
And then after all of that, when I had an album ready then the next step was releasing it. I had to contact label companies and you know, slow internet connections, some of the websites were filtered by the government, and I had to be careful about my email (the account that I was using) and a lot of other things…you know, it was also kind of risky.
6. How did the idea of travelling to Norway come to your mind? What made you make the final decision to do it, despite all the possible consequences?
Well, you know I am a black metal musician, black metal is my passion and we all know about BM and Norway. It is like a heaven for BM musician. So, from many years ago I had this dream to go to Norway. To get the chance to work in the scene or even just for a visit. So, when I got the chance I didn’t think twice, there was no doubt and I just wanted to make it happen.
7. How did you get in touch with the people from Norway?
It was in 2007 when I released one of my albums and then I got an offer from a Norwegian label company to release the album on Vinyl here in Norway. So, it was the first time when I got in touch with Norwegian people in the scene and actually that was the beginning of all that happened afterwards.
8. How did your family and closest ones react? Did anybody else in your family know about your secret and forbidden passion, and your plans as a musician?
My family and close friends were always my supporters, honestly. As I said my parents were fan of rock music and they always supported me in this way. From the beginning until now. Still it is the first thing that they ask me whenever we talk is how things are going with my music etc. So, it was not a secret for them but of course I was not like shouting about my plan everywhere. I was really careful about it.
9. Did you ever go back to Iran after travelling to the Inferno festival in Norway?
Yeah, I had to go back because I just had a visa for 2 weeks and of course I didn’t want to stay here illegally, you know.
10. If you haven't returned to Iran since that day, do you feel like there's something you've left behind you forever in Iran that you're missing?
Well, it was in January 2014 when I could manage to go back to Norway and since then I haven’t returned to Iran, you know. What I am missing the most is my family and friends, you know. And of course my homeland, Iran… It is like there is a part of me left behind, if you know what I mean. I have my roots there.
11. Weren't you worried that your trip to the Inferno festival in Norway and your subsequent participation in this film might turn the authorities against your family? How did you all handle these concerns?
Yeah, I was really worried about those things. It was a really stressful time, you know. Because I knew that it could make problems for me or even for my family if they find out about the festival and the film. There were some cases that a band went just for a show in another country and when they returned to Iran they got some problems. It is always confusing when you don’t know where the red lines are, as I said. But you know, I didn’t want to miss this chance and fulfill one of my biggest dreams in life, to play my music on stage, in a real show, in a big festival like Inferno with known Norwegian BM musicians. So, there was no doubt about it and my family were also encouraging me.
12. I've seen your music revolves around ancient Iranian history and myth. Do you see all these as part of your identity? Would you like to see your country revive its ancient glory?
Yeah true, all of the lyrics are about/related the Persian history, mythology, legends and ancient Persian stories. You know, Iran was one of the biggest empires in the world, a real vast land. And we have lots of stories in our mythology that are full of battles between gods and devils, lights and darkness etc. And in the first place when I wanted to start my project, I felt that all of these stories are really proper for Black metal lyrics, epic stories, unique and mysterious… Well, I think as an Iranian it is part of my identity…
13. What is your connection to your home country Iran? What part does Iran take in your identity?
I am an Iranian (Persian). That is all I need to say, I think. It is the most important part of my identity. I might look or think a bit different than the majority of people in my country but you know, still I am from that land. I was born there and my background comes from Iran. Iran is full of different ethnicities (from Lurs and Talyshs to Kurds, Turks and Baluchs and more) but they are all Iranian. It is their identity, you know…I am talking about the land, the people, culture, civilization and identity, all are twisted together, you know.
Christian Falch – the man who made it happen
1. Tell us about the film.
Blackhearts is a feature documentary that deals with black metal from a contemporary angle. It is not about the history of the genre or a traditional music documentary per se, but follows different people from around the world and gets a glimpse into the minds of black metal fans that have gone to extremes to follow their passion for this music genre. The people we meet are very different from each other and come from different religious, political and cultural backgrounds – but they have one thing in common: they all dream about playing live with their bands in Norway. A reviewer called the film “surprisingly funny and slightly morbid”. I think that sums it up really well.
2. In a world now flooded with Black Metal documentaries, what makes this specific film so special?
Our starting point for this film, and what I believe we have accomplished is to make a documentary about black metal for a wide range of audience. We did not make this film for the fans in particular. We wanted to make a film consisting of personal stories in a black metal setting, but to focus on more universal topics like passion, dreams, set-backs, spirituality, illusions and more. At the same time we wanted to take the audience to places they have rarely seen before as the inner chambers of Golden Dawn, satanic rituals in Colombia, the Iranian underground black metal scene and of course – the real inside of Norway´s black metal environment. We do not use traditional interview methods, but we follow the protagonists in our film with our camera as their story evolves. And yes, the film also includes some moments that will make you laugh – not often seen in other black metal documentaries.
3. What gave you the idea on doing a film about so called Blackhearts?
I really thought that there was about time that someone made a film about black metal that is not necessarily only about what happened in the early 90´s or focusing on the mythology that is a big part of the genre. And as we all know, the Norwegian and international black metal scene consists of a lot of very interesting people and personalities. The point of view in most documentaries related to black metal does not focus on the hard core fans and the genuine impact the genre has on many people's lives all around the world. And as I said: most films are made by and for fans. With Blackhearts, this is not necessarily the case.
4. Why did you choose the name Blackhearts as the title of the film (and as I understood) to describe the three protagonists?
The film is about dreams and intense passion for black metal, so I do think the title makes perfect sense in that matter. There is a link to the infamous Mayhem bootleg album “Dawn of the Black Hearts”.
5. What is your connection to Black Metal? Are you a fan of the music?
Being Norwegian and growing up in the 90´s as a rock and metal fan, my connection to black metal as a music genre and the mythology surrounding it is pretty strong. I have remotely followed the development from black metal being something scary and provocative and turning into an important part of our cultural common heritage. Today black metal is no longer as scary or provocative as it used to be in Norway and this is something that we emphasized on in the film as well. We wanted to show the contrast. And yes, I´m a fan of black metal, but not by far as the people we meet in the film. I listen to all kinds of rock and metal related music too, but the fascination for black metal and the phenomena surrounding it has always been with me.
6. How did you first encounter Black Metal?
As with most people my age, I encountered it through the media attention that some people connected to certain Norwegian bands attracted. This of course caught my attention immediately and I started listening to some of the bands. I liked what I heard of course, but it did not change my musical preferences. It rather spiced up my record collection. By the time I turned 18 I was able to go to black metal shows and I remember seeing Mayhem live the weekend I turned 18. This experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Seeing a band with a stage performance like that was truly different from just listening to the albums every now and then. It is safe to say that my personal interest for the music became stronger after that show. This autumn I will see Mayhem live again at the same venue 16 years later. Looking forward to it of course.
7. Where and how did you find these three people that you've chosen for your movie, and why did you settle on this specific trio? Did you get to know these people through their music first, or through their personal stories?
We did about a year of research talking to all kinds of people before we chose to go for Sina, Hector and Kaiadas. We used the good ol´ internet for the research of course, but also our extensive international network of friends, colleagues and families to find the protagonists. Most information about them was of course related to their bands, so this was our starting point. From there we got to know more about their personalities and their current lives as well. In the case of these three – all the elements we were preliminary looking for were in place and we decided to start shooting. But bottom line is that we had to follow our instinct and gut feeling as documentary makers. Our ambition was to follow our protagonists with our camera as their story unfolded, so we had basically no idea what would happen when we started shooting. Fortunately, we encountered a fair share of drama, ups and downs, and everything that a good documentary should consist of.
8. How was working with the BlackHearts? Any interesting stories from behind the scenes?
This film is the result of 5 years of work. We have travelled around the world and met a lot of interesting people, made good friends, seen some bizarre stuff and of course had a lot of fun. At the same time it goes without saying that it has also been stressful. The film is sponsored by several important film financiers so we also had the pressure of living up to their expectations when it comes to good film making. This ain´t always easy. When making documentaries about real life people you encounter a lot of situations that´s out of your control as a filmmaker. My job is to make the best out of every situation and implementing this into the film. The stories from behind the scenes are too many to go into detail on here, but after watching the film itself, people can use their imagination to get a glimpse of what the people behind the camera have experienced. And yeah, there is a lot of stuff and situations that did not make it into the completed film as well. It has been quite an adventure I must say…..
9. As I understand from the trailer, the film will revolve mainly around Sina, but can you tell us about the other two? What makes the other two qualify for the theme of the film?
Yes, Sina from Iran is the main character in our film. This is because (believe it or not) our access to him with our cameras was simpler than with the two others. Sina´s story is in many ways also more dramatic since playing black metal music in Iran is illegal. His personal risk is great and his passion is simply something unique. For various reasons it is easy for the audience to connect with his story on an emotional level and this is something we always look for when making documentaries about real life stories.
The two other protagonists in Blackhearts are also quite exceptional. And I do think they represent two important aspects of the non-musical inspiration that some fans find in the black metal universe: Satanism and politics.
Kaiadas from the band Naer Mataron is also a parliament member for the ultra-right political party Golden Dawn in Greece. How often have you seen politicians that are deeply into black metal? This is a very fascinating angle to have a closer look at in my opinion. He also states that black metal is more important to him than a career in the parliament. In the film we try to understand where his deep passion comes from and if there is any link between this and his political views.
When making a film about the worldwide impact of black metal, one cannot ignore Satanism either. Goes without saying I guess. I have shot films in Colombia before and seen some black metal shows there as well. Therefore it was natural for me to look for some Colombian black metal Satanists as I knew they were in general very, very passionate about the music and the dark spiritual aspects of it. I was fortunate enough to come across Hector from the band Luciferian. He had everything we could dream of when it came to dedication to the music and a true belief in the forces of evil.
With these three main protagonists and the appearance of several other interesting people connected to the Norwegian and international black metal scene, I do feel that we have achieved to make a film about this phenomenon that sees it from various angles and perspectives. Black metal fans are not as homogeneous as many people think, that´s for sure.
10. I understand the movie already premiered in different places around the world. How was it received by the crowd and movie critics so far? How did people outside the Metal scene react?
Yes, since April this year the film have travelled quite a lot and we have had screenings at festivals and special events in Sydney, Bogotá, Chicago, Cape Town, Lisbon, Transylvania and of course Norway among many others. Many of the screenings have been done for a non-metal related audience and the response have been better than expected. We are very pleased to see that all kinds of people find our film entertaining, enlightening and thought provoking. The much dreaded movie critiques have been treating us nice so far as well. I´m pretty sure this has something to do with the surprise element that the film has. It is really not quite what people expect and this gives them a positive experience. We were actually prepared to take a lot of heat from the black metal scene, but so far we have only received praise.
11. Would you recommend this film to non-Black Metallers, or even people outside the metal scene? If so, how would you describe it to anyone outside the metal scene?
For sure I would recommend it for people with no interest or background knowledge of black metal – after all, they are the ones we made the film for! Black metal is just the framework of the film, the driving force is the development of the personal stories that unfolds during the film and the excitement to see some very unusual locations, people and settings. For an outsider I would describe the film as an entertaining, emotional, a bit freaky and sometimes funny road trip from Iran, Colombia and Greece to the unholy frostbitten woodlands of Norway.
12. What aspects of your film might appeal to people outside the Black Metal scene and Metal scene in general?
My answer above goes for the non-metal fans. As for the fans I do think that the film is first of all a refreshing new look at a scene and a genre that they all know in detail from before. Even though the people we meet in the film are pretty extreme and extravagant at times, most metal fans will also relate to their passion for the music. In addition, Blackhearts features glimpses and scenes with people from bands like Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Immortal, 1349, Myrkskog, Keep of Kalessin and more. It also provides a pretty different look at the contemporary black metal scene in Norway, something that might be pretty new to some.
13. Will there be a chance of seeing this film at one of the film festivals in Israel?
Not sure about festivals in Israel, but an Israeli TV broadcaster have bought the edited version of the film (52 minutes). I don´t know the broadcast date yet, but we will for sure post the information in social media when we know.
A few closing words
This is but a sampler of the true strength and gallantry of these 3 fellows. True greatness does not arise when one is afraid to listen to his own heart. The ultimate success of our three protagonists shall be a lesson to all not to silence a heart which yearns deeply, against all odds, again and again and again…
For more info
Noa Artzi 9/29/2016
Black, Black Hearts
One of the documentarys banners
BlackHearts - Official
The trinity of black hearts: the Father, the Son andthe Unholy Ghost
Sina, One of the few Black Metal Musicians in Iran
Kaiadas and "golden-dawn"
Hector makes the deal of a lifetime
Tell me: how far would you go for what you love?
"It feels surreal to be here in Norway" | Hector