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THE AMENTA - Interview with Cain & Tim
Australian Avantgarde Death Metal band THE AMENTA return with full force after a seven-year long hiatus. For their first single ‘Sere Money’, frontman Cain created a video clip together with film maker Garth Hurley, combining elements of David Lynch, Blade Runner and post-structuralist thought. To dive deeper into the ideas behind the song and moving pictures, our PR man Jonathan conducted an interview with vocalist Cain as well as keyboardist and lyricist Tim.
Q: Good evening Cain & Tim, and many thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of my questions concerning the first single/video clip ‘Sere Money’ of your coming album “Revelator”. ‘Sere Money’ is the second song on “Revelator”, and despite its brutal elements and passages, the song starts a bit more brooding and sinister than the more furious album opener ‘An Epoch Ellipsis’. Please tell us, why did you want to celebrate your “comeback” with the song ‘Sere Money’? What makes this track the ideal gate into the world and atmosphere of “Revelator”? And – just as a little detail – when was the song ‘Sere Money’ written? Was it one of the first ones for “Revelator”?
CAIN: As for the ‘Sere Money’ video/single and why it is the first sign of our comeback, I think the main thing was its cinematic, infectious energy which pulses throughout the track. It has a very strong “visual” element to it that inspires the imagination and takes the listener on a ride. The opening hook grabs you by the throat takes you on a descent into deeper and deeper levels of cathartic discomfort. That “grab-factor” just seemed to appeal to all of us as a great way to introduce our new sound to our listeners.
TIM: I agree with Cain, ‘Sere Money’ has an immediacy which we thought would make people sit up and take notice. We also wanted to come back from our long hiatus with something that was unusual, to show people that things have changed for the band. As well as our usual blasting, ugly, noisy death metal, there are a lot of strange twists and turns on “Revelator” that we wanted to introduce people to piece by piece. ‘Sere Money’ is a great illustrator of this as it starts almost in a rock mode, with a clear groove but it also, over the course of the song, devolves until by the end it is a droning noisy cacophony. Not only is this theme across the album, it also shows various modes of the album in the one song. From an atmospheric sense, “Revelator” is a very dark and tense album, but we achieve that tension in a variety of ways. ‘Sere Money’ is probably the most immediate way we try to communicate this tension, there are other more subtle ways throughout the album, but we figured we’d introduce the album with something upfront.
CAIN: ‘Sere Money’ was actually one of the later songs to come into the equation. There were 5 or 6 songs already in their infancy before the main chunks of ‘Sere Money’ were being thrown around. We never really took much of a break from writing after our last tour in 2013. We were continually jamming on various bits and pieces. Plenty of riffs, mini-arrangements and songs have been completely disregarded along the way.
Q: To stay with the musical aspect: do you consider ‘Sere Money’ also as a kind of passage or transitional track from “Flesh Is Heir” to “Revelator” so that listeners can easily find their way back into the art of THE AMENTA?
CAIN: To some degree, yes. The song does have certain elements with strong ties to prior works and incarnations of the band. However, there are some aspects which are very fresh to us. I think it’s fairly understood at this point that we reinvent ourselves quite severely with each release, so I guess we figured it best not to lull our listeners into a false sense of security with a song that harks back too strongly to prior works. At the same time, we don’t want to step back into the spotlight with something that might confuse people too much. We’ll leave the more jarring surprises to be unveiled within the context of the “Revelator” journey.
TIM: I think in some ways we chose this song to introduce the band because it is such a huge step away from what came before. If we had come back from a 7-year hiatus with something that sounded too close to a continuation of what come before, we personally would be bored and uninspired by it. I’m not sure if that is the case for listeners to our band, but for us as artists that would have just been a waste of time. Who knows if it will work, but imagining myself as the ideal consumer of our music, I would prefer to be somewhat confused by an initial song but be intrigued enough to dig into the album to try to understand it. In my experience with other bands who have gone through similar evolutions, this has been the most rewarding way to understand and appreciate their art. I hope this has the same effect for others.
Q: In the video clip for the song ‘Sere Money’ the aspect of “transformation” and “mutation” (also in context of the maggots) seem to play a pivotal role. The faces of human beings change and turn into masks and back again, the ballerinas are, in the beginning, real humans of flesh and blood, and then turn into fleshy puppets, et cetera. Could you elaborate how these elements go together with the song title ‘Sere Money’ and what kind of lyrical ideas hide behind these different symbols and the symbolism per se? Is the song ‘Sere Money’ also interwoven into a conceptual album? Do the songs on “Revelator” belong together or should they be understood as individual thoughts?
CAIN: The pivotal role in the video is actually credited to the concept of “transmutation” or, more specifically, the transmutation of suffering into deeper levels of consciousness. That said, the themes you have mentioned are also completely relevant to the narrative of the video. These words sit perfectly either side of the central theme, similarly to Tim’s wordplay throughout the song lyrics. We made a very deliberate effort to welcome, listen and honour our subconscious minds during the development of this album, which is why some things can come across as completely unrelated yet, in truth, it’s all related.
The images which occurred to me when initially drafting the shots for the video bubbled up through my subconscious while listening to the song in the dark. Nothing was forced, and there was no judgement or criticism of those images. Some became quite incessant, and continued to evolve. I took these visual expressions of personal struggles and perspectives, and twisted them into a more deeply abstract “dreamscape”, in which they become open to a broader translation, and synchronized with certain lyrical themes. However, some elements were conjured directly from the lyrics themselves.
The maggots, which you mentioned, are a particularly complex symbol in this video. They represent the literal and metaphorical shedding of skin, as they devour obsolete flesh (or in this case, a mournful flesh-mask of suffering). Old values are broken down and absorbed to fuel the process of their transformation. They are metaphorical of a rioting crowd’s “hive mind”, while also representing the collective consciousness of the planet which is currently working through the final stage of an evolutionary cycle, according to Sanskrit scriptures. In this way, they are representative of, both, beauty and ugliness. They go together. Light and dark, yin and yang.
TIM: Cain and I had a few discussions about the ‘Sere Money’ lyrics while he was working though his ideas, but we deliberately didn’t ever “lock down” any meaning. We were more interested in his interpretation of my lyrics, rather than a literal representation of what those lyrics mean to me. His interpretation of the words is as valid as my interpretation. That’s something I wanted to work with in the lyrics for “Revelator”, that openness to interpretation.
All our past albums have been loosely concept albums. They generally start from a central idea and branch out from it, the lyrics are closely related but are examinations of different facets of the central idea, rather than a A to B narrative of a character. With “Revelator” I wanted to try something different for lyrics. Instead of a central theme, I wrote disconnected phrases, puns, portmanteau words and the like in a book. I did this for several years and deliberately forgot about the original meaning or inspiration of the small elements of text. Later, I went through my book and began finding phrases and words that related to each other on a subconscious level, as Cain did with images for the film clip. I found that the phrases had an internal logic, and I could assemble sets of lyrics with new meanings, but the lyrics not only had this “assembled” meaning, but buried in each discreet chunk, is the original “inspirational” meaning, so the lyrics become like a palimpsest of meaning. Now, when I hear or read the lyrics, I am making subconscious connections. I find the lyrics are all linked because they deal with themes that are obviously important to me on a subconscious level. Now taken to a visual field with the video, Cain’s interpretation of my interpretation of my original intent layers a third possible meaning. With each interpretation the field of meaning becomes deeper and richer.
As the lyrics are there to be interpreted, we can’t pull out key themes without guiding people down certain paths. Suffice to say that there are overarching obsessions that become key themes and, as a result, “Revelator” can be considered our most successful attempt at a concept album. I would hope that the symbols, the words, and the meanings are all so interwoven that they are can only be parsed on a subconscious level, as Cain has done with the film clip.
Q: Please tell us more about the shooting of the video clip. With whom did you collaborate to make this video possible and how complex was it to make this universe come to life? What were the biggest challenges when shooting ‘Sere Money’? Are some subtle David Lynch references done on purpose?
CAIN: The ‘Sere Money’ video and album trailer were quite a bizarre product of synchronicity. My options were extremely limited when I first embarked on developing the album trailer, as this was well into the first stage of Covid lockdown. There were simply no filmmakers around who would step outside to work with me. Out of nowhere, I received a message from an old friend named Garth Hurley (CRT Productions), who I’d barely had any contact with in almost 20 years. We were great friends in high school, and worked together on various macabre art, music and film projects. As it turns out, he’s never stopped pushing himself creatively or technically as a visual artist, so he was a perfect fit for the project.
The process was very challenging and drawn out, as we were operating on a shoestring budget. This was, both, a blessing and a curse, in the sense that it pushed us to find ways of doing a lot with very little, yet it came with all sorts of limitations and obstacles. Largely, it came down to innovation, and calling in favours from a whole plethora of remarkable friends and strangers.
Biggest challenges? Shooting the “music-box ballerina” sequence… Pulling together all the necessary technical components and operators… A cast and crew of twenty-something people... Finding a date to suit everybody… The date arrives and the shoot is completely aborted by a freak, torrential down-pour. Everyone is sent home. Back to the drawing board!
As for David Lynch, his work has been incredibly inspiring to both Garth and I since we first discovered “Eraserhead” as kids. There was no intentional reference to his work in these videos, but there are two significant elements which played a huge influence in the way it all played out. Firstly, since we couldn’t afford any grandiose production, I decided our focus would be best sharpened to the mundane and uncanny. Things, places and events so ordinary and unremarkable that anyone can relate to them, yet framing them in a way that inspires discomfort and dread. This is something David Lynch has orchestrated so beautifully in so many instances, and one of the reasons I was so instantly fascinated him as an artist. Secondly, is the prosthetic face-mask which is featured in the videos. This was actually inspired by a concept discussed in David Lynch’s book, “Catching The Big Fish”. He refers to this concept as “The Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit Of Negativity”. The “Mask Of Suffering” you see in the album trailer and ‘Sere Money’ video is my version of David’s “Clown Suit”.