Erin Palmer is no stranger 'round these (pseudo-medieval) parts. You may know her as the sole member of both raw black metal outfit Dread Maw and black metal/black n' roll entity Rage of Devils--or perhaps, if you have a ridiculously acute memory, you may recall a few guest posts here at ye olde Sleeping Village. Or you may know her by benefit of an active community presence over on twitter.
In any case, Erin is great, and we're honored to have had the opportunity to chat about a wide variety of topics, from the upcoming Dread Maw release, to black metal as a genre and a mindset, to maintaining distinctions between multiple projects, to Mortal Kombat, and beyond. We hope you enjoy! Once yer done reading this, I recommend making the trek over to bandcamp and snagging that sweet Libations of Blood preorder.
Enough preemptive chit-chat. Without further ado:
Sleeping Village: Hey Erin! Thanks for stopping by our humble Village. Firstly: how are you holding up these days?
Erin Palmer: Pretty well, thanks for asking! I recently quit a job that was killing my mental health, so I've just kinda been relaxing and working on the music.
SV: Shoutout to quitting jobs, and congrats on the impending release! Now that Libations of Blood is sitting in the nebulous space between "being finished" and "being released," how are you conceptualizing the release as a whole? Is the anticipation and curiosity as to your audience's reaction occupying you at this point, or are you excited to just get on to the next thing?
EP: I'm not going to lie and say I'm not anxious as to how people will react to it, because I definitely am, as with any release. But Dread Maw has always been a project that's been for me, first and foremost. I'm proud of what I did, and that's the important thing. I've also got the third Rage of Devils album occupying my time at the moment, so that's helping me not focus on anxiety too much.
SV: How does Libations of Blood differ from your debut EP under the Dread Maw moniker?
EP: I think it's a little better produced while still having that raw edge. I also double tracked the vocals, did one track with a high pitched shriek and then did a second one with a more mid range growl under it. I think the effect is nice and chaotic and they're some of my favorite vocals I've done.
SV: What was the impetus behind the creation of Dread Maw? Does Dread Maw provide you the opportunity to cover different sonic/thematic territory than Rage of Devils does?
EP: It definitely does provide that opportunity. I have always loved dissonant music, and I was listening to a lot of Terra Tenebrosa [read Erin'sretrospective review here! - Ed.], Drastus, Dearth, stuff like that before I started the project. I don't really necessarily think Dread Maw sounds like any of those bands, but they were definitely the inspiration. I wanted to do something that I could just go nuts and have fun with. I wasn't really expecting a lot of people to like it, I just wanted to do something that was 100% me.
SV: Similarly: I'm always interested in the ability to maintain multiple creative projects separately, particularly in the case of solo acts where other personas intrinsically don't have an impact. Is there always going to be a clear delineation between Rage of Devils and Dread Maw in your mind, or is their trajectory bound to intercept at some point? Rage of the Devil's Dread Maw solo supergroup inbound?
EP: It's interesting that you ask that, because I'm currently writing the third Rage of Devils album, and it's coming out more dissonant than I expected. I'm employing some of the techniques I use when coming up with Dread Maw stuff. There is still definitely a clear delineation between the two; Rage of Devils is always going to have more accessible riffs and hooks and things, but the third album is going to have a little Dread Maw flavor.
SV: Continuing down this train of thought, do you generally know what project a new song will be attributed to during the songwriting process? Does that decision ultimately come later?
EP: Yeah, I know where a song's going when I write it. It helps that the Dread Maw stuff is in large part improvised, so I'm only coming up with the basic skeleton of the song when I write for that project; with Rage of Devils I have most everything planned out before I sit down to record. That being said I did switch projects with a song once; “Hate,” the instrumental opener for the Sanctified Murder EP, was originally going to be an interlude in the second Rage of Devils album, but I decided it worked better as an intro for Dread Maw.
SV: In terms of your overall process, what's the hardest part of operating as a solo act? Is there an aspect that you would prefer not to do, or is doing everything yourself all part of the appeal?
EP: Doing everything myself is both the appeal and the hardest part. I like having complete creative control, and the amount of pride I feel when I listen to a song that I have written, performed and produced in its entirety is beyond words. That being said, I'm also in Ophelia Drowning with Sarah Allen Reed where I'm just doing drums, and it'll be nice to only focus on one part of the music.
SV: Having been witness to your twitter-mind for a while now, it's clear that you have thought a lot about black metal as a genre (and perhaps as a vehicle for, in your words, transgression and shock.) On a fundamental basis, what is black metal? Is black metal defined by its sonic qualities and thematic qualities in equal measure?
EP: My views on black metal have evolved quite a bit over the years. In my late teens and early twenties, when I got into the genre, I was very taken by the themes of black metal, the misanthropy and the sense that it was more outsider music than any other type of metal. I loved the Satanic imagery, I felt that that was the perfect expression of those themes. I am now in my early thirties and have grown up considerably. On one hand, you could say that black metal is simply a dark genre of music, and you wouldn't be wrong at all. If you want to think of it as just riffs and drums and shrieking that's perfectly valid. But the themes that struck me as a teen are still part of the musical experience for me, still help send a little shiver down my spine when the riff hits just right. I think as long as you're not making it your whole damn personality, and as long as you're not using the philosophy as an excuse to be apathetic or outright hateful, it's fun to let yourself appreciate the mystique a little
SV: In a similar vein: what does it mean to you to be a black metal musician?
EP: It means taking the philosophy of black metal, that outsiderness, that Satanic idea of going against the grain, against society, and turning it queer and leftist. Turning it into rage at the injustice and bigotry that is part of the very fabric of life
SV: I'm obviously preaching totally the choir here, but an awful aspect of black metal is this association with injustice and hate and bigotry--so much so that hate and bigotry are often cited as essential to the genre's core sound. Is drawing a visible line in the sand when it comes to the fascist ideologies that permeate metal a mark of pride for you, or is it just an unfortunate reality of your role within the space?
EP: Unfortunate reality. I would love to not have to worry about any of that shit, but I do kind of understand why it happens. As we talked about just now, black metal is a genre of music with a very extreme philosophy, and that will attract people with other extreme views, be they right or left. Now, that is not to say black metal is “extreme music for extreme people” ONLY. Far from it. Black metal is for everyone to appreciate, and thus it should be, yes, a safe space. For everyone except fascists.
SV: Allow me a compliment! I generally have a difficult time connecting with raw black metal, but Sanctified Murder had me immediately hooked and invested due to the sheer force of your emotive delivery and personality. As someone who is significantly more familiar with the genre: is the draw similar for you? Is there some other notable aspect that pulls you in?
EP: Thank you very much! The draw for me with raw and dissonant music is the atmosphere it creates. Dark, unhinged, sometimes even a little frightening. I love the feeling it creates. It takes me mentally to another place entirely. It's a form of escapism, really, much the same way reading a good book is.
SV: Along with representing some of the best riffs in the game at the moment, the queer black metal community also seems to be host to a uniquely strong ideology of mutual support. How has being a member of this community had an impact on your respective projects (and on you as a creative person in general?)
EP: The queer metal community has been great. It took me a while to figure out I was even queer, but once I did, they welcomed me with open arms. I remember when I did the Plague Upon Four Houses split with Karnstein, Everson Poe, and Wyeth, and I still hadn't fully come out as trans yet and was worried I wasn't “queer enough” (nonsense, for the record), and they were immediately like, “okay, this split now has four queer people on it.” It was wonderful. As I've progressed in my queerness and come to terms with the fact that I'm trans, the queer community here has only continued to inspire me.
SV: With that in mind, is your inspiration primarily outwardly or inwardly sourced? Or a combination of the two?
EP: A combination. Rage of Devils started because I was furious about the state of the world, and a lot of songs come from that anger, but sometimes a lyric or a rhythm will pop into my head and I'll write a song around it. Dread Maw is usually inspired by whatever I'm reading at the time.
SV: I feel like this could be its own separate interview, but here's a (probably failed) attempt to keep it concise. You seem to be quite the avid reader, and have mentioned being influenced by both Greek mythology and fantasy novels. Are there any particular stories within the mythical ouvre that serve as threads in the tapestry of your works? Similarly, what fantasy series/books/authors are you liable to geek out over?
EP: There's not really any consistent thread, but books I can highly recommend: The Nevernight trilogy, the Something Dark and Holy trilogy, the Locked Tomb trilogy, the Grave of Empires series, the Red Rising series, the Black Company series, and A Song of Ice and Fire. Special mention goes to the Crimson Empire trilogy because the author is clearly a metalhead. There are so many metal references in those books.
SV: Over the past year or so, your projects have only continued to gain support. Do you have an overall goal or dream when it comes to Dread Maw/Rage of Devils, or are you content to just see where the road takes you?
EP: Really just content to see where the road takes me. Both projects have already exceeded my wildest expectations. All I really wanted was to have my own little spot in the black metal scene, and I think I do.
SV: Getting away from music for a brief second: as another fan of the franchise, and an admirer of your affinity for its convoluted lore, I've gotta ask about your thoughts on the new Mortal Kombat movie.
EP: Ah, it was a lot of fun. I'm not going to say it was a good movie, but it was fun. I enjoyed the new take on the story. But I'm a huge fan, so honestly give me anything involving Mortal Kombat and I'll like it. MKI was the first video game I ever played, at this older kid's house when I was like four. Even before my parents let me have my own video games, I used to buy the strategy guides just to read the lore.
SV: And swiftly back to music, as is our curse: what are your favorite albums of the year thusfar? In your professional estimation, how is 2021 stacking up in the grand scheme of Years That Have Produced Excellent Music?
EP: Naturgeist – Reinvigorated Terror; Febris Manea – Through Pale Opulence Thy Reign is Doomed [Erin's guest review can be found here! - Ed.] Hymnr – Far Beyond Insanity; Worship Him –Carmina Diabolicum Profana; Amafufunyana – Demonic Possession I; Fornicus/Ofstingan split; Nordjevel – Fenriir
I honestly don't pay much attention to music by year so I really couldn't say.
SV: Fair enough! And besides, y'know, your own stuff, what else should we be paying attention to as we head into the summer?
EP: I don't know if this counts as my own stuff, but keep an eye out for the next Ophelia Drowning album, which I'm playing drums on.
SV: You're quite prolific, so the question is inevitable: what's next for Erin?
EP: Third Rage of Devils album, tentatively titled The Devil's Own. It's coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.
SV: Looking forward to it, as always! Thanks so much for taking the time and energy! We'll give you the last word--is there anything you would like to add?
EP: Satan is queer, no I will not elaborate.
Dread Maw - Libations of Blood will be released June 4th, 2021 via The Forest at Night. Preorder a cassette here!
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