GRAND FALSE KARASS – MATTHEW J. RATCLIFFE
Art: Frederic Leighton (RIP)
Feeling that much of metal has lost its capacity to confront, challenge and offend, which I feel were some of its vital elements, I write with the intent to do just that, drawing on philosophy’s ability to critique any point of view, but mainly the most entrenched and axiomatic of our beliefs. My goal is not to tell anyone what to think but rather to get them to question, so we aim for all human philosophical predilections. Would that I had time for ritual! Writing is done in scraps wherever I can steal time to do it, but it is done in a strict schedule, for in an ordered life, I find freedom.
I certainly have philosophical fixations, but when they are at odds with the kind of music I want to make, I lay them down. Our music is an exploration of many points of view and rarely, if ever, represents something I condone. One of the appeals of metal is that it frees us to explore the darker parts of humanity so that we can learn about our nature without opening ourselves to personal corruption.
Creative process? In the beginning, alcohol was a part of my process, but I learned this was a crutch. Creativity is an essential human quality; we have to trust that we will be able to continue to push our boundaries and discover more in the depths of ourselves.
To look at how we revere our celebrities, it would undoubtedly appear that humans have a worshipping nature, and heavy music is no different. It’s even more common than in other genres for notions of ritual to be involved in our live shows. We even listen to these musicians’ opinions outside of their musical expertise. I’m sure that’s not the whole story, but ‘modern cult worship’ can’t be far from the mark. I’m sure it’s a familiar story. Still, metalheads tend to be extremophiles, constantly chasing something heavier, darker, or more complex. For me, that converges in black metal, particularly progressive black metal, so an idol would be someone like Ihsahn, whose music is constantly evolving, something I admire and aspire to.
There are figures from outside of music that inspire me. Hideo Kojima and Stanley Kubrick have created things that uniquely utilise the power of the specific mediums they work in. I have often thought about ways to make music that does the same for our medium of heavy metal. It’s a boundary I will continue to push in the future.
We know that music can be a spiritual experience, and getting close to recreating these truly transcendent moments is ideal for the musician to strive towards. I think the way the human brain is receptive to the effects of music, ritual, psychedelics and whatever else that comes close to ‘spiritual’ is poorly understood. Still, as we learn more, we might better see how music fits into the spiritual experience. It’s still the case that most musicians don’t come close, and it is, as you say, merely entertainment.
I doubt much would surprise any metal fan these days because metal is already such a broad and varied genre that crosses over with so many other forms of music. Outside of metal, it’s classic rock, prog and movie scores for me.