Tales from The Frontier – Part 1
Tales from The Frontier – Part 1 >English
רְשִׁימ֥וֹת־תֹּ֖הוּ | An Interview with Diego Matejka >ATMF Records
By: Noa Artzi
A couple of months ago I revisited north Italy which, since my last visit in 2017 became a place of fond memories. During my visit, I had the pleasure to attend a local Black Metal evening featuring Veneto’s virtuosos NOVA, the works of which I have briefly reviewed in the first printed edition of our magazine. Knowing I will attend this gig, I packed two copies of the latter publication as gifts – one for a dear friend from the local scene and the other, for a prominent local figure I have mentioned in an article featured in that edition. I had doubts whether I’ll meet him there and therefore planned to deliver it through a friend.
I was informed about his attendance upon my arrival to the venue, shortly after which I was introduced to the man himself. Diego Matejka, founder and mind behind ATMF records, Frontiera dell’Essere and Absentia Lunae among others, appeared as a polite, smartly dressed man in a black button-up shirt and leather coat. He was accompanied by another creative mind behind Absentia Lunae, the talented multi-instrumentalist Climaxia, which appeared as a radiant, pink haired lady. I did not have the chance to talk much with the latter, but the conversation I had with Diego left me with an appetite for more. I was curious to know more about his ideas, broadcasted to the world through multiple channels, his sources of inspiration and his perspective on the state of our art, as well as the controversies and adversities faced by our scene, some of which also affected his very own label, ATMF.
I’ve had the chance to talk to quite a few musicians, but in terms of interest, the conversation presented below can easily be mentioned among the best. I am proud and excited to present these intelligent, inspiring words to our readers. I deem it won’t be much of an exaggeration to say that he represents the best of the best among us, who keep the flames burning even through the longest of nights.
Label activities and vision
1. As you’ve also highlighted in your website, you’re “more than a label”. I understand ATMF stands for “Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum”. In other words, you’re somewhat of an artistic foundation. Can you describe the nature of this foundation? What are the causes it aims to serve? What is your vision as ATMF?
The foundation is a community of people that in different ways and forms gave birth, support and help to the prosperity of this mission.
When you make such a significant choice in your life you’re not simply doing a job or a hobby. When I started ATMF magazine I was ending my high school experience and getting into History studies. At that time my understanding of myself and the outer world was getting stronger, day after day.
With personal evolution and full consciousness of my inner self came grief because you feel yourself so much detached from the rest of the human beings. This gives you grief, but also a motivation to fulfill and manifest your difference. For this purpose, Black Metal is no doubt a very natural channel of expression, or at least it was my natural vocation. I felt a calling and BM was something really intriguing: it showed a juvenile strength but also a dark consciousness of strengths wider than the human being.
The dark community was too much connected to the emotional/social/sentimental and let’s say it was too much freaky for my attitude.
Today Black Metal is a musical genre like many others. Once you get so much detached from the manners and references of the people around you something strange happens: you can become an isolated and self-destructive essence or you can try to build something from the ashes. This is where ATMF started, first as a webzine, to investigate all aspects and motivations of the artists I loved, in its second stage as a mail-order and later as a musical label. Some interviews got me so much into the elitist concept, like the one with Dødheimsgard, for example, I remember others as being a bit disappointing, but they simply motivated me to create something more conscious.
Once I started the label, former Absentia Lunae bass player Michele also got into the project and we cooperated for many years. Right now, he’s not part of the organization anymore but he’s still helping the organization.
But we also have a street team of people that we deeply respect and trust, so that we consider them as our representatives on various territories that promote our concept and releases around the world. This is a foundation of spirits that are eager to work together and make this story grow throughout the years.
And, how could I have forgotten Francesco Gemelli, who shaped a lot of key artwork in the past and present history of our label, even in dark times on a friendly basis? I must say thanks to all of them. I’m just a representative of a dream called ATMF. At the time of foundation, I remember my dream was to take the legacy of labels like Misanthropy Records & Moonfog rec even further.
2. I understand Frontiera Dell'Essesre serves as your foundation’s cultural outlet. Can you tell us some more about this organization and its activities?
Frontiera dell’Essere is the Evolution of ATMF. The dream we were breeding at the time we changed our logo & name was very ambitious. I must be honest that this new project is something we still have to investigate and develop.
We started with the IANVA concert at the Vittoriale Degli Italiani, a magical experience where we made this dream come true for the band and the fans, like us. That was an experience that will stay within our memory for our entire life. Frontiera dell’Essere (“The Frontier of the Being”) is an evolution of the Black Metal concept. In spite of being just a manifestation of our local roots or of the Black Metal tradition, we’re seeking for different venues and forms of expression other than the usual CD production.
ATMF also created the sublabels “De Tenebrarum Pricnipio” and “A Sad Sadness Song”. The Frontier is part of it. SSS investigated new forms of communication, taking the post metal waves into our stream of consciousness.
I must say that the connection with post metal is still a hard challenge, because sometimes we see too much distance between some of the political involvements and ideological confusion in this genre. BM before this contamination was an easier environment for us. We think this world has still some incredible intuitions but is taking back the beasts in the cage, an urban cage where every form of weakness is accepted. Therefore, in this point we still have to make some consideration about who deserves to be part of it and which cooperation we may end on a friendly basis.
3. I would like to hear more about "PRIMO VERE DEGLI ITALIANI" - the live IANVA performance you’ve mentioned. This specific event immediately caught my eye after a highly memorable visit to the Vittoriale Degli Italiani during my last trip to north Italy.
What was the importance of the location, in relation to IANVA’s music and the Frontiera’s vision? How did the evening go?
At the time when there was maximum hype around the Black Metal phenomenon there was still a lot of room for experimenting in the Ambient/Noise & Dark Folk field. In this regard Black Metal was a far more open minded musical genre. Therefore, we always messed with Cold Meat Industry and the Arditi/Triari/Death in June/Der Blutarsch stuff. IANVA was simply an amazing discovery for us, something the Italian scene should be proud of. After we listened to “Disobbedisco” it was natural for us to make some mad plans on having it performed in the very best place for such a lyrical concept.
D’Annunzio has the poetical aesthetic transcendence and a long-standing connection to our classic background. We believe it’s an example of how human beings should try to get rid of the jail of normality. Today you can be “everything” but ultimately you have to be nothing. On a more mature philosophical approach this can be true, but the basic assumption of the relativist culture “pensiero debole” (“weak thought” -Edit) draws to completely different assumptions and perspectives. We manifest our spite upon that miserable philosophical conclusion.
4. Your annual ATMF fest: I can imagine it's not "just another music festival". What distinguishes it from other European music festivals? What is its objective?
I don’t want to sound arrogant in any way, but I deem it’s a hard duty to figure out a way to organize a festival, so most of the choices we made were based on opportunity.
Of course, because we can’t and we don’t want to compete with the big festivals, we simply followed our own way. We invite most of our bands to play because they obviously represent the spirit of our label and the way in which we deem that we can contribute to a genre that involved our life in such a deep way.
The idea to make it an open air is soon to be explained. I was used to the usual concerts, and my will was to find a place within the mountains, in a wild and pure environment where I could make the small community meet and share the awareness outside the usual setting. Big festivals loose the atmosphere of being “open” and easily get overcrowded. A small fest is something that you can feel as yours, more than anything else.
5. I would like to hear some background on your collaboration with NOVA. How did you get to work together?
I do recall you mentioning a strong coherence between NOVA’s music and your vision. What are the elements in their music that contribute to this coherence?
NOVA contacted us many years ago as fans of our label. They understood ATMF wasn’t just some people releasing music but mostly a front of opposition against the relativism of today’s hippy-hipster-music junk boxes that pollute what remains of the Black Metal scene.
Absentia Lunae is the art which represents this statement, as is Disiplin, so everyone who’s been in the scene for a while is well aware of what it means to be part of our roster.
After I got the chance to hear the material of the debut album, “Il Ritorno” with the attention it deserves I was immediately aware of the fact that both musically and later on conceptually the band came to the right place when proposing their art to us.
You can hear the anger and the fury, but also a glimpse of purity hidden between the lines in this masterpiece. In some ways it reminded me a bit to Spite Extreme Wing’s Kosmokrator and you know how this album has positively affected the Italian Scene.
But together with these references, I perceived the potential in their songwriting, already a solid and mature one for a debut. This is the kind of Black Metal that drives me mad, fury made with purity, nature goes to nature, blood for blood - everything shows and proves the ultimate truth in the end.
6. Another memorable project operating under the banner of ATMF, to which you’ve also introduced me during our meeting, is the mysterious Digir Gidim. A few words about them for our readers?
Digir Gidim is tightly linked to your interest in proto-Iranian\Mesopotamian culture and spirituality. What are the concepts belonging to that field which serve as artistic\intellectual inspiration for your work?
I think the discovery of this band was something crushing, as there weren’t many other projects that managed to move me recently. Everything was born with our Titaan debut, which is also linked to the Mesopotamian cultural references.
What really impresses me about this project is the way in which, thorough a strong symbolic reference and links to the ancient tradition, the focus is placed on a yearning to the supreme will.
You do move from a strong reference and roots to gain a superior consciousness and knowledge of the essence of this tradition. Moving from the mask of appearance of this modern world to a mask of consciousness, where the supreme will breeds.
It’s pretty common in spiritual disciplines to detach from your corporal subjection to the fake expression of social belonging, even of the cultural heritage. Once transcended to the outer space, moving out of the social distortion you make the first steps in getting a superior consciousness. Tradition & heritage is key, not the superior awareness.
7. Any other memorable ATMF releases? What was their significance?
Visthia’s comeback is one of the most innovative and daring merging of white noise, ambient & industrial music with a dramatically Ossianic Black Metal. This is worth a check for the most selective and ambitious fanbase. There’s something unique and personal about this album. Visthia released their debut via Solistitium Records (Horna, Perished & many others) moving from a form of epic Black Metal to an ambitious merging of metal & extra-metal influences. Once you listen to “In Aeternum Deleti” you can perceive the fragmented & defragmented pieces of tradition moving and taking form in your mind.
Forgotten Woods is the most provocative and conceptually anti-cultural milestone among the post 2000 Black metal outputs. Musically we can find this raw, primitive and arrogant approach on the band’s early stuff, but their ability to sound this way after many years and the added sharpness to the conceptual and visual genius make it absolutely above any standard. This is an album I’m proud to have under our banner.
Black Metal and “political matters”
8. I would like to talk to you about the incident surrounding Displin which prompted you to make your statement in an article entitled "who's afraid of the wolf".
There is a prevalence of similar incidents involving Black Metal and Neofolk artists and even professors in the academy, the accusations against which often border with the ridiculous, irrational and straight out absurd. Then there’s the same mindset that manifests itself in higher orders, when government officials support the tearing down of war monuments, and universities blatantly decide to omit essential philosophical works from their academic curriculum – as if promoting a collectivized ignorance and trivialization of once sacred human values.
Can you tell us about your label’s stand against incidents of this kind?
I think at that time, it was for us a sort of symbolic murder of our innocence. It happened already to a band like JANUS, which has absolutely nothing to do with extreme ideologies, but were discriminated by a notorious worldwide magazine. Of course, DISIPLIN was obviously a conceptually harsh attack to the common sense, and the music was perfectly in line with this mission.
I remember that to a certain extent part of our supporters was totally on our side, supporting our statement, while the other was simply in a mental state I used to call the “SS Charlemagne Syndrome”. It was like we’re hated by the vast majority, so why seek their approval? Why should we try to change their minds?
In some way I can understand their attitude, desiring to be perceived as “the enemy” at any price, waiting for their doomed fate to get them without making any sort or compromise or forming any strategy. When you’re young you want to be perceived as an enemy of reality, without doing any kind of reality check. Our strategy was always provocative and totally different from the “NS or HC point of view”.
The best way to uproot this phenomenon of censorship in the name of “protecting Democracy from potentially dangerous ideas” is to point out its contradictions. We want young people to become aware of the fact that there’s someone who believes they’re too stupid to be able to handle ideas and concepts by themselves.
We want to destroy the modern understanding of democracy, the fallacy and involution that this term suffered. I’m not against the term democracy itself but I think the significance placed upon the idea of democracy is nothing compared to the significance that should be placed on the leader’s ability to lead responsibly and competently. We’re not anti-democratic but we have a totally different understanding of its meaning.
9. In the same article mentioned above, you have rejected the label’s definition as an “NS label”. I understand this rejection does not stem from a desire to win the public’s favor or save a business from financial loss.
However, it brings me to something you mentioned in our conversation, on your goals of making a universal statement beyond narrow political definitions and a dichotomy of theism\atheism, right\left… What is this statement that you’re wishing to make?
Any label simply draws to a mind failure. First of all, we don’t want to be associated with any. Then if you ask me what National Socialist Black Metal means, would the answer be that you play Black Metal hoping to re-establish a National Socialist Government?
Many people into the NS scene, or at least those who believe themselves to be associated to it should be aware that in such a scenario they would end up like the Sturmabteilung, as a useful tool to be then crushed because they were morally not in the line with the collective understanding. So, I deem this label has been really unlucky.
I know personally many people that talk about the pride of having white skin, of being against races, socialist ideas, communist ideas and perceive themselves as part of this crowd. Some of them, few luckily, even use drugs, you know? Some of them criticize drug abuse but are living in a constant alcoholic distorted reality. Do they want a socialist system to be implemented? I’m just asking.
I deem everything connected to common sense makes this word boring and restrictive. ATMF made hundreds of releases, can it be limited to this label that we’ve never requested? I hope you can follow me, this is really unfair.
I see Black Metal as a juvenile liberation of primordial strengths, this can of course have many involvements but the label you mentioned is simply becoming a sort of jail into which antifa puts everything they dislike. We’re of course anti-antifa, no problem to state that, but the matter is quite more complex than simply being on a certain front or on another.
10. In an age where it seems as if every sacred value is trivialized and relativized to the point of no absolute point of reference, what can serve as a compass for individuals who can perceive of this collectivized madness yet still hold their sanity dear?
I do what I feel is in line with my inner communication, I don’t feel this sense of loss at least on this aspect.
This is why I’m telling people to increase their communication with their spiritual and inner part before they just point out how things are going bad compared, for instance, to a different time in history or to a different place.
I make you an example, if I’m walking into the night, I’m conscious that I’m doing something against the natural attitude of our being. You should sleep at night and follow the light of the sun while moving forward. But anyway, the reason behind my dark wandering is that I seek comfort in staying away from the confusion, but after that I start talking to myself and I get back the bonds and ties that lie under the ruins of our recent collective suicide.
If you feel this urge, it comes pretty naturally. It’s obviously not just listening to music or attending some concerts. It’s about starting to understand that we’re our own strength and are a small but powerful projection of an ancient awareness.
To be continued…
 A musical gathering; here's a take from IANVA's Facebook: "Born in 2003 in Genoa, Italy, IANVA is the result of the unification of nine musicians from different backgrounds (classical and conservatory studies, Goth, Prog, Black Metal, Dark Cabaret) united with the idea of resurrecting the music of older times, from the mood of film noir to the European cafe mood of the '20s, '30s and '40s. Like a dark cabaret, enchanting their audience not only with their music but also vital stories of Italy’s past."
 Side project of Digir Gidim vocalist.
Frontiera dell’Essere - “The Frontier of the Being”
VISTHIA – IN AETERNUM DELETI
“one of the most innovative and daring merging of white noise, ambient & industrial music with a dramatically Ossianic Black Metal”
NOVA - live at Veneto
“You can hear the anger and the fury, but also a glimpse of purity hidden between the lines”
FORGOTTEN WOODS – RACE OF CAIN
"the most provocative and conceptually anti-cultural milestone among the post 2000 Black metal outputs"
IANVA al Vittoriale 2012 - Dov'eri tu quel giorno
Born in 2003 in Genoa, Italy, IANVA is the result of the unification of nine musicians from different backgrounds (classical and conservatory studies, Goth, Prog, Black Metal, Dark Cabaret) united with the idea of resurrecting the music of older times, from the mood of film noir to the European cafe mood of the '20s, '30s and '40s.
(Taken from IANVA's Facebook page)