Interview by: The Voiceless Apparition
The name Matron Thorn may not be a household name, but for almost 20 years, Reuben Christopher Jordan, the man known as Matron Thorn, has been releasing some of the most personal, heartfelt, and authentic music in the metal scene. Since forming Benighted in Sodom in 2006, Matron Thorn has gone on to release 17 full-length studio albums and create various other projects, (Aevangelist, Devil Worshipper, and Vagrant Starscape to name only a few) building a massive discography (close to 200 albums). He's a musician that has greatly influenced me and his music has helped open my eyes to other worlds of music, even outside of metal. So when I reached out to him for a possible interview opportunity, I was elated that he agreed to do this interview. Here is the amazing result, in which we Matron Thorn discusses early projects, Benighted in Sodom, Carrier of Poison Apples, and future projects.
The Voiceless Apparition: First off, I'd like to thank you very much for the interview opportunity, I am honored. If I could start with the first question, what initially gave you the spark to create art as a child?
Matron Thorn: I needed an escape. I felt alone and alienated from everyone around me all the time, and I was quietly struggling with severe depression, so creating art was initially a reactionary response to environmental problems that were out of my control.
VA: One of your earliest known projects was called Midwinter Storm, not much is known about the project, could you please shed some light on this?
MT: Midwinter Storm was the first serious attempt at making music, as early as about 2006. This was a time before the shadow of social media was cast over bands, and people were still making unique websites to host mp3s or exchanging files through instant messaging programs and the like, so I was mostly self producing CDr copies of music I would share with my close friends locally. I used a variety of unsophisticated and often improvised recording techniques, experimenting with cheap, borrowed, or stolen equipment to create different sounds was a regular thing. There are somewhere around 30 or 40 full length albums of this material, none of it has ever been released in a physical format. Stylistically it was all over the place. Sometimes it would linger between doom metal, post rock, and ambient music, other times it was completely unclassifiable nonsense. It's all very special to me, though. These early musical experiments would inform much of the emotional depth of later music I would make with Benighted in Sodom, Ævangelist, Vagrant Starscape, etc. And the Midwinter Storm material also reflects me at my most bare emotional honesty, both in the content of the material and how it was performed and recorded. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to say, what melodies I wanted to make, the emotions I was trying to convey, but I was inexperienced and poorly equipped to manifest these ideas in a manner that would have been ideal, so I did the best I could with very little, before I knew anything of DAWs and plugins, and other modern advances.
VA: After you disbanded Midwinter Storm, you formed your now longest running project, Benighted in Sodom. What were the initial aspirations with Benzo in the beginning?
MT: To be honest, I wouldn't say I ever truly ended Midwinter Storm, I just sort of set it down to concentrate on other things. It's said that no great work of art is ever completed, only abandoned, and this is the case with Midwinter Storm. But eventually, I came up with a few new recording techniques that I found to be adequate enough to approach a new style that would be more deliberate than the chaotic, often-instrumental randomness that I was used to doing with Midwinter Storm.
So, a bit of a history lesson about my relationship with black metal here. I had already flirted with some black metal-esque flourishes and stylistic treatments a bit with Midwinter Storm, and these were all inspired by the first few black metal albums that really interested me when I was younger, Hviss Lyset Tar Oss, A Blaze in the Northern Sky specifically, but also other bands like Emperor, Satyricon, Leviathan, etc. as far as black metal goes. There came a time when I specifically set out to create black metal, but I knew I wanted to make my own "sound", so I started working with unusual chords to make something that I felt represented what I was going for. At some point I recorded about 8 songs with a basic B.C. Rich Warlock run through a cheap practice amp, a low-end bass run through the same amp, and some electronic drums I borrowed, and this would eventually become Plague Overlord. I was raised Southern Baptist and simultaneously attended private Catholic school when I was younger so a lot of the lyrics I wrote had strong religious overtones. I was satisfied with expressing my disdain for ideology and many concepts that were imposed on me during that time in my life. I don't remember exactly how, but I connected with Paul from Minnesota black metal band Teratism, who seemed impressed by what I made and he introduced me to Andi from German label Obscure Abhorrence Productions and later on this led to the very first proper release of my material on CD.
VA: You're quite the prolific artist. you are currently involved in Aevangelist, Devil Worshipper, Vagrant Starscape, and various other projects. Where do you get the time to release such an influx of material and do you ever fear of burning out?
MT: Well, similar to how things were in the Midwinter Storm era of my music, I have various ideas that are all desperate to manifest themselves, and now I do that as several distinct entities instead of just one. More than burning out, I'm worried about forgetting why I do this, that its supposed to be my personal therapy, and I'm worried about allowing the approval or lack thereof from outside my own microcosm influence my work.
VA: In 2019, Benzo "returned" after a few years of studio silence, and you released 2 albums, one of which was Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night. Could you tell me a little bit about the creative process behind that album and how it felt to release new Benzo material after 6 years?
MT: After the first seven or eight Benighted in Sodom albums, I started to experiment further with other sounds, other ways to express myself in this project. Even though I was still attached to the premise for this project, it started to feel like black metal was not giving me enough room to explore what I wanted to convey. I wanted to keep making black metal, but it felt like black metal wasn't the ultimate direction for Benighted in Sodom, and even the name of the project started to feel like I had outgrown it, for its black metal nature. This band was supposed to represent things about my life personally, and while appreciated black metal, I couldn't relate to it and I had no significant attachment to it compared to how my peers did.
Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night was the realization of ideas that I started to experiment with on Monstrously Beautiful Sorrow, radically different from the earlier material but much closer to my actual musical influences, none of which come from black metal. Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night is more consistent with my personality and where I am in my life, it was written during various night walks I took by myself when I was living in Portland. Portland is kind of a transient city, so I was always meeting strange people during these walks, and a lot of the music was inspired by conversations I had with them, but also inspired by my relationship at the time, substance abuse, death, and this dark place I was in at the time. The title of the album is from Dylan Thomas' poem about his father, and it's one of the most beautiful lines of text ever composed in my opinion.
VA: In December you released Carrier of Poison Apples, the first Benzo album to be released on physical fomat in 10 years. How does it feel to know that your most honest and personal album to date is being released physically? Gratifying?
MT: I spent more time on this album than any other, and releasing it on CD was something I wanted to do but I never thought it would happen. People seem to be more interested in me going back to things I did on albums like In Hora Maledictus and Reverse Baptism, but I just feel like I already took the black metal direction as far as it needed to go; I recorded several solid black metal albums I'm proud of, but I also just lack the means and ability to scream like I used to, if I'm being honest.
And pretty much like I expected, the critical response to Carrier of Poison Apples was split down the middle between people who really loved it and people who completely hated it, which is totally fine, though on the other hand, it also seems like a lot of people dislike everything I do by default. I'm an easy target because I don't talk about myself and my opinions on things very much, so people have invented their own issues with my music that don't really have anything to do with my music. People treat me like I just got here, and don't seem to realize that I've been doing this for over 15 years, but I try to stay humble.
I didn't mean for it to take a decade to release another album, but I'm glad it was this one.
VA: Carrier of Poison Apples marks another shift in sound, going for a grungy, singer-songwriter-esque, and sludgy approach. How do you feel about the album now that it has been out for over a month now?
MT: When I was writing this album, I went back to Monstrously Beautiful Sorrow and Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night to reabsorb the material and expand on things I liked most about both. I had kind of an idea of what I wanted this to sound like but I also wanted to explore some new ways of doing things, and this led to a bit of trial and error with it, eventually recording and scrapping the album numerous times until it started to finally take shape. Vocally, I took a lot of inspiration from Jon Crosby of VAST, Peter Steele, and Tom G. Warrior. I wanted to make songs that were catchy and memorable, and also songs that lend themselves to live performances since I envisioned this project reactivating live shows with the discovery of this new sound. Of all the Benzo material, this album contains some of the strongest riffs and melodies I've ever come up with.
VA: I agree, it's a truly remarkable and captivating release, musically and lyrically. Why did you feel that this was the right album for you to tell your life story?
MT: The creation of the album was a way to purge a lot of things in my past that followed me around the world, and it was a way to shed the skin of Benighted in Sodom and sanction the band as Benzo. The last physical release before the new album was Reverse Baptism, which was a black metal album, so this new album is what locks in the change.
In the past, I spoke in riddles and kept a lot of secrets in the music, and in different ways I still do, but a lot of the concepts are also more straightforward and accessible than they every have been.
VA: What is next for Benzo?
MT: I'm putting together a committed live lineup here in Finland to play material from Monstrously Beautiful Sorrow, Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night, and Carrier of Poison Apples, at some point in the future. I've got about 35% of the next album written at this point, it's called Loathe & Behold. I've also been considering the possibility of making some of the Midwinter Storm releases available sometime soon.
VA: Now to switch gears, Aevangelist recently released Dream an Evil Dream II, the companion piece to the original experimental album, and it is the first album to feature Stephane Gerbaud (formerly of Anorexia Nervosa). What do you think he brings to the band and how much has he influenced the project?
MT: Stephane aside from being an emotive vocalist is a compelling lyricist and has penned the best storytelling that Ævangelist has ever recorded.
VA: In the near future you will release Nightmarecatcher, a bold hour long conceptual piece split into 3 distinct sections. How do you feel Aevangelist has progressed since Matricide in the Temple of Omega?
MT: Matricide in the Temple of Omega was something else that I think was not properly understood, though overall I really loved the material and regret that it was used in the twilight of a decaying partnership with a previous member of the band. Nightmarecatcher is an appropriate rebirth to Ævangelist, featuring music supported by a solid narrative provided by Stephane and a professional production provided by Jeremie Bezier from Emptiness, and as well, I have honed my recording abilities over these years to bring out the best in what we do when measured against everything we have done before.
VA: You recently teased the prospect of another new album entitled Harmony of the Sinister. Are you able to share any details yet or is it still too early to tell?
MT: What I can say is that it's about halfway recorded, and will be out sometime later in 2020.
VT: Switching once again, you are also the main composer and instrumentalist for Devil Worshipper, a project featuring Sofia Loureiro of Hicks Kinison/Vaee Solis and Marcos Martins formerly of Tod Huetet Uebel/Vaee Solis, both on vocals respectively. Is there any news to share about the groups upcoming plans? Might I add that Music For the Endtimes was one of my favorite releases of 2018.
MT: Thanks for saying that. The second Devil Worshipper album, Eternally Yours, has been done for a while now, we are just trying to solidify a release date with the label. Music For the Endtimes was very spontaneous and aggressive, which was right at the time. The new album is a bit more focused, more built on storytelling and diversity.
We also threw around the idea of playing live, but its complicated because we're all in different parts of Europe and must overcome distance and geography for rehearsals with at least a six person lineup".
VA: Now if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you a few non-serious questions:
If you could have a conversation with one of your heroes, who would it be and why?
MT: Favorite film : Lord of Illusions. A criminally underrated masterpiece of horror and film noir, with an excellent score. One of the best serial killer movies of all time.
Favorite record : maybe The Burning Circle and Then Dust by Lycia. Or the self titled album by VAST
I would want to receive personal advice from Grant Morrison.
VA: And finally, what is next for yourself and your various current projects?
MT: Right now, I'm working on a new Præternatura album, the next Benzo album, the next Ævangelist album, a new Vagrant Starscape album, and something for my trip hop project, Rust-Colored Glasses. Wisdom of the Grave, from my doom/grunge band Oblivion Gate will be released soon, as the aforementioned Devil Worshipper album sometime after that. I also intend to release something new under just my name this year also. I'm currently writing a book and scripting a film, both of which you will hear more about when the time is right.
VA: Thank you so much for granting me this interview, I am truly humbled and honored. Is there anything that you would like to say to the supporters?
MT: Don't worry about snakes in the garden when you've got spiders in the bed.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.
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