MATG Exclusive Interview: Neill Jameson of Krieg
Neill Jameson must be one of Black Metal’s hardest working men. Not only is he the driving force for the legendary act Krieg, he’s worked with just about anyone who’s anyone in the US Black Metal scene from Judas Iscariot mastermind Andrew Harris (better known by the stage name Akhenaten) to Jef Whitehead (Wrest of Leviathan). The man has played with the biggest names in Black Metal (both domestic and abroad), he writes for Decibel magazine all while working for a living. Fortunately, he was able to give the time to sit down with yours truly, the Black Metal Bitch, to discuss the past, present, and future of the band, his thoughts on politics, and what it’s like being at the forefront of the USBM scene.
BMB: Hi, Neill, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! As anyone into the underground metal scene knows, Krieg is one of the biggest names in the U.S. Black Metal scene. Having been around since 1994 (as Imperial) you’ve built quite a name for yourself and accomplished a lot in 22 years. You’ve been all over the world, you’ve toured with a lot of big names, you’ve collaborated with everyone from Kult ov Azazel to Satanic Warmaster to Jef Whitehead of Leviathan. What are some of your greatest memories and accomplishments with Krieg?
NJ: Every step forward is the greatest accomplishment, mostly because it means that I haven’t ceased my work even though I’m quickly approaching 40 and have been doing this for more than half of my life. Any time I elicit a reaction where someone has to take time out of their day to complain about me, especially those who do so without any sense of critical thinking, and just fucking ruin that part of their lives being upset at something I’ve done or sai,d should also be considered a nice achievement, the sort of shit your mom would hang on the fridge if you were the age some of these people act.
BMB: What was your initial introduction to the Black Metal genre? How did Krieg come to be?
NJ: Where I grew up there was a radio station based out of one of the colleges that had an underground metal show. It was there I first heard Darkthrone, Samael, Mayhem, etc. I eventually joined the program and stayed with the station for ten years, though I doubt that I had the sort of impact on anyone that the old program did for me. Krieg came to be because I had always been passionate about music, but black metal was the first genre where I really felt both comfortable and creative working with. As I was already in a band with everyone in my area into metal I ended up going at it alone for awhile, which helped me turn whatever youthful arrogance I had into a creative independence which I stubbornly hold onto to this day.
BMB: Over two decades in the American Black Metal Scene and a number of lineup changes it looks like Krieg may just have found a stable roster. With the release of ‘Transient’ fans got a taste of the new (and current) Krieg; I imagine it feels pretty good to have some help in carrying the burden of writing and playing. How did you hook up with these guys (Poole, Sykes, Zdanavage, and Dost) over the years and do you think you’ve found a solid lineup?
NJ: You’d think so, but 50% of that lineup is no longer with the band, I’ve just given up on updating any sites with that kind of information since things change so frequently, though the core of that lineup did stay together for four years, which is some kind of fucking record for me. Alex Poole and Jason Dost are still in the band; I met both of them through people in the Philadelphia scene. They’ve both been instrumental in keeping Krieg active and to the best it can be, stable.
BMB: Can you walk us through the creative process for Krieg? How do you guys arrive at the finished product?
NJ: It can start anywhere from humming a riff to reading something or hearing a conversation. Certain words and ideas stimulate the process for me, but with all stimulating you need to continually stoke the fires and you eventually build up a tolerance, so you need to do more to stimulate yourself. While this all sounds like jerking off that would probably be a good metaphor for Krieg’s writing process. The boring explanation is we work on ideas, get together, see what works, and what doesn’t and then record it and hope that it gets us a sunglasses sponsorship.
BMB: I’ve noticed over the years you’ve put out a ton of music using a number of different labels. What’s the reason behind switching labels so often and how is Profound Lore treating you guys? Are you happy there? Have a found a home with them?
NJ: A lot of the labels which I’ve done splits or EP’s, etc. with are smaller labels who lack the kind of money for a proper studio record, but make up for it in dedication and hard work. Previous labels I’ve done full lengths with had fulfilled their end of the bargains, but it was time to move on, especially in the case of Candlelight who fucked up the European release of our last record. So far Profound Lore is excellent, but having known Bruni for awhile I honestly expected no less. He seems to really want to nurture his bands, to grow with them, which is refreshing as I’ve been working with a label whose main concern is business first for the better part of five years.
BMB: Recently, on the band’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/officialkrieg) you had told fans the band was on a hiatus from touring. What is the reasoning behind that? And is there anything lined up for when the band makes a return to the stage?
NJ: Aforementioned lineup issues, which have been quickly resolved, but we have no plans for the near future.
BMB: Having been all over the country and the world, where are your favorite places to play live and why?
NJ: In the US, probably Providence. Good people working in that city, the crowds are always good, and the venues aren’t shit houses. Regarding, the rest of the world, my best experiences were in Serbia and Finland, probably because black metal is still taken seriously there and not some kind of fashion show romp or self-parody of itself.
BMB: Oh wow! As a New Englander that makes me happy to hear! Have you hit Boston or Worcester at all?
NJ: I’ve done Ralph’s a few times. Would love to do it again, lots of things I want to do in New England. Never done New Hampshire or a good Connecticut show. We get offered Vermont every so often, but fuck that drive. Probably will do providence this year. Besides making bad decisions I’d just like to spend more time there.
BMB: You’ve had a ton of side projects including Weltmacht, Lithotome, Nihilism is Liberation (N.I.L.), and the Black Metal super group Twilight. What was it like working with the likes of Judas Iscariot’s Akhenaten on the Weltmacht project? How did that project come to fruition? To my understanding he’s hasn’t really been active in the past decade. Are you guys still in contact? I’m assuming there’s no chance of a Weltmacht reunion in the works with him being overseas.
NJ: Andrew asked me to be on the first Weltmacht after we had done the only North American Judas Iscariot show. He had done a demo previously, but I guess he felt it sounded too close to Judas stuff or some reason and asked me to do the record. I prefer the first one to the second, which I think is a little long winded in spots. He’s been out of music since around 2004. I’ve only spoken with him maybe five times in the last eleven years. He’ll never do music, at least publicly, again.
BMB: I have to be honest; two of my favorite Krieg albums are ‘The Isolationist’ and ‘Blue Miasma,’ which feature a ton of fill-in members including guys like Blake Judd, Jef Whitehead, MMK, and Winterheart. On those two particular albums, where you have these big names do you find it easier or more difficult to put a song together? What’s the process like and does ego ever complicate the matter?
NJ: Blake had a lot less to do with either record than the legends go on about. I’ve never been intimidated by working with anyone. I value being able to collaborate with people, especially those whose talent dwarfs my own, whom I respect, and know that I will be able to build something with. Also, anyone I ask to be on my records I consider my friend, so that takes a lot of the intimidation out of it. Ego has only ever been an issue with a few inconsequential people.
BMB: Everyone in the metal underground knows about Blake Judd’s heroin problems. You’ve worked with him several times in the past. Do you have any thoughts on his whole situation between ripping off fans and the general black cloud hanging over his head? Would you ever work with the guy again?
NJ: In short I hate the motherfucker. He got me for thousands of dollars, fucked up Krieg for awhile. The list goes on. I hoped he would have died when he was homeless, but instead he helped facilitate a girl dying. I will do whatever I can to make sure he never has another record on a reputable label again. (Neill also sent along an article he had written for Noisey for all of the details concerning his dealings with Blake: http://noisey.vice.com/blog/neill-krieg-blake-judd)
BMB: Did you enjoy doing the Twilight project? How did that project work with everyone being scattered around the country? Did you guys all get together or was it more of a file sharing project where everyone worked together via the interwebs?
NJ: For all three records we got together, though the first one was finished more through file sharing than anything since some members didn’t feel leaving their houses to come and contribute was an important part of being in a band and just mailed shit in to the rest of us. For the second and third records we got together in Chicago, rehearsed and wrote for a few days, and entered the studio, I suppose like most bands do.
BMB: Should Twilight fans hold their breath on you guys making new music collectively? And how did Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore become involved in the project? He seems like an unlikely addition, but to my understanding he’s really into the music.
NJ: We won’t be doing another record as Twilight. One of Sonic Youth’s sound techs worked at the studio Sanford Parker was based out of for a while so the idea just kind of came around during the second record, but it wasn’t entirely serious because none of us thought he’d do it. When it came time for the third record things just fell into place and Thurston joined as a full member. He also has been into black metal longer and knows more about the underground than a large (and unfortunately vocal) part of the current scene.
BMB: I recently had a chance to talk to Julian of Kult ov Azazel who happens to be a big Krieg fan. I know you guys had the KOA/Krieg split and I know you’ve filled in for them live. With your love of working with other artists in the genre, have there ever been any talks of getting together with those guys as far as yet another side project?
NJ: We were going to do a Rudimentary Peni styled band called House of the Void but nothing really came out of it due to schedule shit. Never say never though.
BMB: How did you hook up with the guys in Los Angele’s based Doom outfit, Hidden? I’m not going to lie, I had never heard of them before this interview, but after digging up some of the work you’ve done outside Krieg I found “Dead Land Energy,” which was really good. I’ve noticed distance doesn’t seem to stop you when it comes to lending your skill set to a project that interests you.
NJ: Hidden is the band of Pat [McCahan]who runs Redstream Records. I just sort of stumbled into it. He used to live only a few hours away from me so it made recording easy and the third record I did my parts in Philadelphia with Chris Grigg (Woe) at his studio. If a project speaks to me then I will make sure I do what I can do participate, either by traveling and doing it wherever they recorded, or doing my parts elsewhere and having them mixed in. If I limited my pursuits to basic geographical distance I would have been a lot less active the last twenty years.
BMB: Who would you consider to be your biggest inspirations as a musician?
NJ: Fuck, I don’t know. My tastes are all over the fucking map, plus I play a few different instruments (poorly – his words, not ours), so different musicians inspire me for different reasons. I guess I can narrow it down to Paul Ledney, Nick Blinko, Dwid Hellion, Jef Whitehead, Lou Reed, and a lot of others. Vocals are very important to me, but also lyrics and then more technique kind of shit like how the drummer plays, listening for those little changes that completely own the song. Nerd shit like that inspires me.
BMB: Top 5 USBM bands. Go.
NJ: Judas Iscariot, Profanatica/Havohej, Demoncy, Leviathan, Hemlock
BMB: Everyone has a guilty pleasure band, just out of curiosity, what’s yours?
NJ: I feel no guilt in anything that brings me pleasure. I also feel no shame for anything in my record collection as obviously I am a gentleman of fine taste and extravagance. Seriously though, I have no idea.
BMB: Speaking of collaborations, is there anyone in the Black Metal scene (or outside of the Black Metal scene for that matter) that you would love to work with?
NJ: I’m most excited for the next time I work with Jef Whitehead on something. We’ve been talking about doing a record for years now, so I suppose it’s a matter of time. I’d love to work with JSS from The Banner on something or Dwid from Integrity. Paul Ledney as well.
BMB: I know you’re a bit of a writer yourself. I’ve read a few of your articles with Decibel and you have a very down to earth, working class way of looking at things. Do you enjoy it? You’ve been writing for awhile now, haven’t you? How did you land that gig? Can fans hope for an autobiography or possibly something involving the exploits of Imperial and Krieg any time soon?
NJ: I’m a cranky person who somehow lands jobs, which have an abnormal amount of shit to complain about, even for me, and so I started posting about this stupid shit on Facebook and it picked up an audience and eventually I was asked by Decibel to do a guest column about the record store I managed, which ended up going viral very quickly. I’ve never been able to match that success again, but I’ve been chasing the dragon for a few years now. I love writing. Besides music, reading has been my hobby since I was very young and I always dreamt more of writing for a living than the rock n roll thing even if it meant less sex and less interesting drugs. I’m not terribly good at expressing myself unless it’s through the written word. Anxiety tends to fuck up face to face things for me unless I drink, which also fucks said face to face things up for me. I’ve considered writing about my time in the band, but I think I’d rather do that when the band itself has run its course.
BMB: Between the band, your day job and the writing gig I imagine down time is hard to come by. What does Neill Jameson of Krieg enjoy doing with his time off?
NJ: I’m pretty boring. I’d prefer to sit around my apartment, listening to records, drinking coffee, chain smoking, and hanging out with my cats, but it’s difficult having an adult job with stupid hours and life’s other responsibilities to get some kind of relief. People keep me indoors; I’m no good around them and they tend to bother me with their asinine shit.
BMB: Totally off topic, but with the state of the country these days are you planning on voting and if so, for who?
NJ: I haven’t voted in the previous two elections. I think the system is fucking rigged and this election as well as subsequent ones have all been bought and paid for and decided upon for a long time. The idea that both sides are using to push unpopular candidates to the masses is fucking repulsive. The whole “IF YOU DON’T VOTE FOR ME THEN THE OTHER MONSTER WILL FUCKING RUIN THE COUNTRY.” It puts fear in place of choice, it’s almost medieval in thought. George Carlin has an excellent bit on “the freedom of choice,” which anyone rational should look up. We’re reaching the death of intellectualism, choice and thought in this society, where only the dumbest shit is held to the highest standard. We’ve lost as a country on so many levels, but idiots are too busy shitting their pants over a flag or who shits where or who won what TV show. It’s embarrassing. You hear a lot of “what would the founding fathers think?” rhetoric. Well, I’m pretty sure they would be fucking ashamed of the people asking that question. I don’t care if we’re a morally bankrupt country, I don’t care if people of the same gender want to fuck each other. What I do care about is the lack of critical thinking American people are proud of, the lack of security in our jobs, the way art and culture is looked down upon as snobby activities. We’re at the edge of a cliff in this country. I’m just waiting to see if we’re so fucking developmentally disabled that we walk off it while trying to look directly into the sun.
BMB: It’s been two years now since fans were able to get themselves a new Krieg full length album. Anything in the works in that department? What’s next for the band?
NJ: We have splits with Ides of Gemini and Panzerbastard to be recorded soon as well as the next full length, ‘Guilt,’ which hopefully we’ll record at Machines with Magnets in Providence again this fall. The split with Integrity is still going to come out, but I have no idea when. Probably some tape and vinyl reissues as well. Business as usual, really.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Neill and good luck on the future projects!
Interview by: Nicole “The Black Metal Bitch” Rush