tiistai 24. toukokuuta 2011

Clandestine Blaze / Northern Heritage interview


KMC: How did you get involved in Black Metal?

MA: As a listener, via radio, purchases and tape trading, I was exposed to material such as Beherit demo 1992, Impaled Nazarene demo, Darkthrone "A Blaze…", Unholy "Trip To Depressive Autumn" and so on. So as you can see, 1992 was the important year. Before this I had listened thrash, death, heavy metal etc., but really the transition from AC/DC & Guns'n'Roses type of material was very swift and when gates were opened, basically every type of hard or obscure underground music got my attention.

KMC: What does Black Metal mean to you?

MA: Musical style I like, inspirational material what at best communicates with my own values/ideas/interests.

KMC: What does Satanism mean to you?

MA: Puts many of your natural instincts, beliefs and values under certain name. I rarely categorize myself under such banner, though.

Clandestine Blaze - Tearing Down Jerusalem
(from 'On The Mission' EP
Northern Heritage 1999)

KMC: Where there any BM acts what inspired you in the beginning?

MA: Beherit, Bathory, Unholy, Judas Iscariot, Darkthrone, Burzum, Goatlord, Graveland, etc. Many of the usual names of the time.

KMC: You formed Clandestine Blaze as a one man band in Lahti 1998. How was the 'BM scene' in Lahti those days?

MA: I was never part of the "scene". I had just moved in Lahti 1997, and didn't know any metal people really. I don't think Lahti metal scene is very connected. People know each other, and of course some members of some bands may have some interaction, but I think many of the bands may have closer associates by other standards than city they happen to live in.
If by scene you mean what bands existed… well, Exordium was already there, but nothing was available. Unburied has already changed from sinister black doom into more avant-garde approach. Bands like Numinous, Evil Angel, Sacrilegious Impalement and so on, were to start later on.

KMC: Why did you chose to start Clandestine Blaze as a man band?

MA: I had very clear vision of what I wanted to do, and I didn't need anyone to help or confuse this vision. If it had been a full line-up band, I don't think it could have existed in current form this long. In general, it is very hard to find members to proper band with same motivations and aims. Also when you consider among the strongest influences was Burzum, Judas Iscariot, Graveland and such, it seemed also accurate way in first place. I had previously played and was playing in other full line-up bands, though, but often in role of musician rather than creator.

KMC: The name Clandestine Blaze what does it mean?

MA: It's one of the main themes of work. Since first lyric which made the foundation for Clandestine Blaze, concept has been widened little by little. If you have spent soon 15 years of dealing with concept, I think it's not anymore possible to explain in just few words without sounding blunt. It basically observes hidden internal motivations, urges and true character.

KMC: I haven't got any proper info about Clandestine Blaze playing live...so, the question is, has Clandestine Blaze ever done live shows? If NOT, why? If NOT, will CB ever play live?

MA: I guess there is saying: never say never. Clandestine Blaze once played one song in Lappeenranta with assistance of Satanic Tyrant Werewolf. CB also rehearsed few times with him and Harald Mentor. But eventually, any idea of proper live show has been abandoned.
When you think, why should CB play… I don't have proper answer? Should it simply happen because there might be audience who would like to see it?
I personally don't like the idea how black metal has been surrounded by almost carnival like atmosphere, where mysticism or authentic emotion is replaced by mountains of gig-exclusive merch and stereotypical rock life.
If live show doesn't carry feeling of band actually being live band, able to convey their material properly to live, where do we need some lame session-group to coldly replicate album tracks for jaded audience?
I think there are good live bands and then there are studio bands, who should have never entered stage. Latter ones probably never really thought why and for who they play and what does it mean to enter stage. It doesn't mean they would be bad, just doing the wrong choices and stepping beyond their own abilities.

KMC: What is your opinion about Black Metal bands in Finland today? Do you think the "scene" is doing well?

MA: I'm not sure about the "scene" as whole, but what comes to bands, there is very decent number of both good and very promising bands. On matters of distribution or being aware of different people, I know pretty well what is happening in this country, but on personal level I'm only in contact with tiny fraction of people. I have no time or interest to socialize with large number of people. I try to listen majority of material what comes out, at least on level of knowing what is out there. I'd hope there would be proper black metal zine with focus on Finnish bands, where you could also find out more than what comes up with album or demo covers.

KMC: What about Norwegian Black Metal in these days? I mean new Burzum albums? Darkthrone's new thrash-punk-oriented style? Satyricon playing in Nordic World Ski Championships, in Holmenkollen?

MA: I'm still digesting new Burzum. Not sure if it's good or not. Darkthrone I have not followed after change of style. Satyricon I really only liked on "Nemesis Divina" album. Early stuff I never got deeply into and later works doesn't interest me at all. Out of morbid curiosity, yes I watched the Holmenkollen clip, but it underlines the fact how shitty situation we currently live: Even in times when there is endless amount of good inspiring black metal around, and possibilities of communication would allow very easy process to dig in deeper to core of black metal, we actually end up following some utterly pointless gossip of old genre relics who haven't been relevant for.. 15 years? Perhaps because at the peak of their creativity, these guys simply crushed endless stream of cheap followers. Still one could ask, why they should be at all matter of discussion anymore?

KMC: It seems that there is every year another and another and another new Norwegian BM document done. What is your opinion about that?

MA: One could say the same as above. When old Norwegian black metal was relevant, it couldn't be covered by any other manner than criticism. Now when things are transferred into nostalgic phenomena of past, it's possible to have it widely covered in media.
In form of faggy photobooks, musicals, collectibles and documentaries. I have not seen any BM document since Det Svarte Alvor. Unless you count in the Nocturno Cultos "movie", which is just about shittiest thing I have seen marketed to bm audience. Basically just another nail to the coffin.

Clandestine Blaze - Nation of God
(from 'There Comes The Day...' Demo
Northern Heritage 2001)

KMC: What about so called Post-"Black Metal", mostly coming from USA?

MA: In past, when people talked about crushing false life metal bands, it was mainly good old death/thrash metal bands that were considered as inferior. Or bands who had simply joined into BM and not really proved themselves yet. And this was bands often "outside" from where the "true black metal" operated.
Nowadays, the false black metal is simply widely accepted within scene. There is some punk band with old English font used in cover, and this album is sold by just about every black metal distributor. Or some band who is there to promote their feminist and tolerance advocating visions is hailed as saviors of black metal.
Most often, it seems like the ONLY real connection that exists, is the imaginary link chosen due marketing tactic. Bands that have very little, if anything, to do with black metal, are sold as such. Simply because very little of people would give flying fuck if the project would be sold as shitty post-punk. Or shitty crust-punk. Or lame shoegaze emo-metal. Or some sort of pinko flavored cosmic synth-music metal.
Also in Finland you can see several bands, who balance on edge of if they are or are not really bm. If it is simply matter of association (like people known from bm bands, therefore bm people buy their other projects) it seems fine, but I can also smell pungent stench of opportunism and post-modern artists.


KMC: First Clandestine Blaze Demo was self-released in 1998. Was it a small pressing? How was the response back then?

MA: 100 copies was made. Response was pretty good for what it was. Only perhaps 20 copies were sold in Finland, and most were distributed by many of the same labels I have been in touch since then. No Colours, Drakkar, Blackmetal.com, and so on. In those times, I got to know most of the people who were to become those associated with Northern Heritage label.

KMC: When you listen the demo today, how does it sound to you in these days?

MA: I think it sounds good. In some ways, it sounds better than versions of first album, but in some ways worse. If it would be possible to combine best elements of both, it would be perfect. There exists also various different mixes with different types of vocals what were never published. Also some alternative versions of songs played in different tempos. All the recordings were done under very primitive conditions, with utterly primitive gear. It only proves how spontaneous energy is the real fuel to create material. I can't replicate those songs or the sound now. Every album can only sound as it is meant. To try to produce something too specific, leads to artificial results.

Clandestine Blaze - Anti-Christian Warfare
(from 'Fire Burns In Our Hearts' Blackmetal.com Records 1999)

KMC: 'On The Mission' 7" EP was released in 1999 (also released on tape and as part of the Northern Heritage Box Set). After the debut EP, came the debut full-lenght 'Fire Burns in Our Hearts'. The sound on the 7" EP and full-lenght is raw & dark, mostly old school bm sound. Was this a reminder for all the Third Wave Black Metal bands (back in those days) what early BM sound & songs are all about?

MA: As mentioned above, every recording happened under extremely limited conditions. I didn't have possibilities or equipment to make sound to something very specific. Material was recorded and it became as it did, including plenty of variables just going well.
I was using 4-track recorder where only functions were volume for each channel. One could no change the sound in any other way than balancing volume level of each 4 channels. And when you also had drums in once channel only, there was no possibility to mix drums at all.
7" material is slightly different than tape, which came several years later. 7" version has short intro and sound is more distorted. Tape doesn't have intro and sound is clearer. On Archive set, original 1st mix sound (=same as tape) was used even if vinyl version was in public first.

KMC: Second full-length, 'Night of the Unholy Flames' came out in 2000. If you compare 'Fire Burns in Our Hearts' and 'Night of the Unholy Flames', what different elements, or let's say "lives and feelings", can you hear between those two albums?

MA: This album was when band reached moment where it's overall style was pretty clear. No more blast beats known from first album and also material went further more stripped down and monotonic feel. Lyrics were still evolving, to take better form later on. Sound is more balanced and it's very logical part before "Fist of the Northern Destroyer".

Clandestine Blaze - Aikakausi On Lyhyt
(from '
Night of the Unholy Flames'' Northern Heritage 2000)

KMC: There is a Finnish song ‘Aikakausi On Liian Lyhyt' in 'Night Of The Unholy Flames'. This was Clandestine Blazes first Finnish song recorded. How did you end up putting one Finnish song in the album, was it about the lyrics or...?

MA: Plenty of Finnish black metal lyrics are for my taste way too poetic and remind like poor version of CMX meets SinäMinä readers contributions. I think it would be possible to make straight to the point Finnish bm lyrics which you can clearly pronounce without feeling shamed. I just happened to write something which to me sounded like it should be used. Certain words in our language are harsh and cruel sounding, while English translations don't carry the same strength because they sound different and most of all overused. Some words may carry vision of explicit violence and torment, what in English sound like pop culture fun.

KMC: After 'Night of the Unholy Flames' came, a demo known as 'There Comes The Day' was released (2001). Why did you decide to release a demo suddenly?

MA: This was released at the same time with 3 other tapes (see later).

KMC: Clandestine Blaze & Deathspell Omega split full-length came out also in 2001. This album was supposed to be released as vinyl ONLY, and it was in 2001 (limited to 300 hand-numbered), BUT it was re-released as CD in 2003. Why is that?

MA: There was bootlegs being made and also threats of some vermin to bootleg them. As you can see, for example Deathspell Omega/Moonblood came out on bootleg CD. I didn't want someone to make inferior bootlegs of the albums. Most likely recording sound from worn out LP or at worse, some mp3 rip. And scanning covers with low quality or possibly altering the design. There simply wasn't any reason anymore why they should have not been done. Original motivations to limit material and keep it restricted had failed over the years. One can learn, instead stubbornly bang head against the wall.

Clandestine Blaze - Genocide Operation
(from '
Clandestine Blaze & Deathspell Omega' Split Northern Heritage 2001)

KMC: There is a CB song in the 'Clandestine Blaze & Deathspell Omegasplit' called 'Genocide Operation' (my personal favorite). The songs has a cold and mournful atmosphere and it's the longest song on the split album. How did this song born?

MA: I can't remember any specific details about composing any of the songs. Again I mainly remember the harsh conditions of the recording process. Often compositions happen either over so long periods of time or so spontaneously, that only moment of recording sticks to memory. This is one of the recordings, where lyrical content and the sound started to match each other better. Where Blasphemous Lust would be as sweaty and sleazy as described acts that took place in local churches, Genocide Operation is musically as miserable and bleak as the visions of genocide. And so on. Situation where lyrics & musics are tied together in a way that they contribute to each other seamlessly. This was increasingly important for CB.

KMC: In the year 2002 CB did three demos, known as 'Below the Surface of Cold Earth', 'Blood And Cum' and 'Goat - Creative Alienation'. Can you tell me (and the readers) about these demos, about the music, releasing formats etc.? I don't own these demos and haven't heard them.

MA: There was 4 tapes in total. Those mentioned and "There comes the day…". Before "Fist of the Northern Destroyer" I recorded various versions of the album, from simple and noisy one guitar+drums+vocals method to full recording with clearer drums, two guitars and bass. I was never completely satisfied with early versions of "album", but I was very satisfied with many of the tracks. "Goat.." and "There.." tapes were these early versions of songs and some unreleased tracks what didn't make into album. I felt they needed to be released, and I also wanted to make each session stand on its own, instead of mixing lots of different sounds as compilations.
There was also some unreleased old sessions, like long track Autumn Burial from sessions of Black Metal Blitzkrieg compilation LP, which was originally left unreleased due style of lyrics what it had. That with 3 primitive "Ildjarn worship" tracks became "Blood & Cum".
And "Below The Surface Of Cold Earth" tape was something that was completely composed and written while being recorded. It was just spontaneous session, which turned out to be one of the highlights of CB. Again, purely unplanned and unrehearsed. It also sold several hundred copies (I think c. 500) even if distributed one by one directly to people.
All this material has been re-issued on Clandestine Blaze archives 1-3. On vinyl and CD. No need to hunt down any rare tapes. At this moment, some copies still available from Northern Heritage, but not many.
Later on, there was many occasions when I thought about doing some tapes of various tracks that have not made it to albums, but eventually it seems like everything will get re-issued on CD or LP, so why now pretend to do exclusive demo-tape? Then it may either be on LP/CD directly or remain unreleased. In these times, latter is good option.

Clandestine Blaze -
Fist of the Northern Destroyer
(from '
Fist of the Northern Destroyer' from Northern Heritage 2002)

KMC: 'Fist of the Northern Destroyer' full-length was released in 2001. There are some people who think this is the best CB album ever done, do you agree?

MA: Music and lyrics, I like a lot, but if just sound would have been similar to either "Goat.." or "Below.." tapes. There are some of my favorite tracks like epic "I have seen…" as well as title track obviously, which is now even more accurate than it was when released. I do appreciate album a lot, but while many praise it as best, to me it is also perhaps one what resulted most "I should have done otherwise" -type of feelings.

KMC: After 'Fist of the Northern Destroyer', a split full-length was released, known as 'Satanic Warmaster & Clandestine Blaze' (2004). How did you end doing a split album with Satanic Warmaster? And how did you and Werwolf end up to include a few collaborative tracks in the split album?

MA: Since beginning of SW and CB, we have been in touch with each other and still are. Idea of this recording came up in some of discussions and we did it. It is most of all collaborative album. The main core of the album is the session we wrote and recorded during one day in Lappeenranta. We had only agreed that both comes up with couple riffs if possible, but majority of this was composed, written and recorded on the spot. Yet another proof about supremacy of spontaneous spirit. Also technically done with simplest 4-track tape recorder with just 1 microphone input and no adjustment possibilities other than volume level. It didn't allow anything else to be captured than pure raw basement darkness. Both of bands later recorded own tracks and this was published as LP. It was mix of very traditional elements, but also about trying few things not used on regular albums.

Satanic Warmaster & Clandestine Blaze - Conspiring Winds Of The Abyss
(from '
Satanic Warmaster & Clandestine Blaze' Split Northern Heritage 2004)

KMC: Fourth full-length 'Deliverers of Faith' was released 2004. Could you tell me something about the artwork in the album covers, because there is a familiar looking 'heads and faces' in priest's body and...well you tell me more?

MA: Deliverers of Faith was another step further in concepts that possessed me especially at those times and was to continue logically towards Church of Atrocity. Cover collects the famous monumental men of history, who have done their best to deliver moments of realization of ill will of crown of creation and powers/urges that guide him. Some of the men have been petty criminals with simply unusual tastes. Some has been chosen for being the most suitable, and some were there simply to be recognized due already being such a pop culture icons by now.
While some others have been the masterminds and leading figures of strong historical moments. And by
determination and belief in something higher, slaughtered the enemies and directed the world forward more than many realize. Only Finnish face seen on covers, is known to everybody. His deeds symbolize the end of old Finland in some ways. Not that his crime was unusually fierce by standards of world or that it would be unheard in the country, but he is by far, the most hated man in our history. His life, deeds, trial, and results of his actions to society define many fine points worth to note.
I have been hesitating to give out all the details on silver platter. I rather hoped people could research and observe and also communicate. Not just "oh, Klaus Barbie and Ian Brady, what a cliche!". Fact that some don't even recognize the faces (or names!) probably hints they have also no idea what types of lives they may have lived, what types of things they have done and why they were considered to be "Deliverers of Faith".

Clandestine Blaze - Falling
(from '
Deliverers of Faith' Northern Heritage 2004)

KMC: Third split full-length 'Clandestine Blaze & Musta Surma - Crushing the Holy Trinity (Son)' was released in 2006. How did you end up doing a split with Musta Surma?

MA: This is not really split, as it is a compilation set of 6 bands. Each band was placed on disc they fitted the best. All the bands on this set were equal and chosen for being some of the very best material of the time for my own tastes. Exordium and Musta Surma presents some of the most essential Finnish black metal material, even if they lurk in shadows, often remaining unnoticed by majority. I'm proud to have noticed strength of early steps of Mgla (since very early demo releases) long before it got much more well know and one of the leading projects from Poland I dare to say!

KMC: Kind of mystery to me and kind of ‘of the line kind of question’...is Musta Surma still active?

MA: Depends what you call active? They still do have near complete full length album waiting as well as some other unpublished tracks. Even if they have no real online presence, in real life members of the band can be meet in live gigs every year. Active? Perhaps not. Alive? Seems so!

KMC: 'Church of Atrocity' full-length was released 2006. The sound in this album is clearer if you compare this album to the previous releases. Was this a conscious decision...or?

MA: Well… Aim of "Deliverers of Faith" was to be primitive. I used very stripped down broken drum kit, mini size rehearsal amps with no pedals or distortions of any kind, just little amp overdrive. Sound of album wasn't supposed to be distorted & brutal, but literally broken and raw. With Church of Atrocity, I had no aim to be raw, yet one could say that guitars ended up to be even more lifelessly cold torment. While drums have more normal sound and things are little drenched to reverb, by no means album is "clean". I thought it was nearly like "studio production", when I originally released it, but when returning later to listen album, I heard it with very different ears. Cover design is bleak grey toned and bluntly simple. It's perfect for the album in my concept, although there is zero "coolness factor", what seems to be less wanted direction in contemporary black metal.

Clandestine Blaze - Ashes Of The Eternal Wonderer
(from '
Church of Atrocity' Northern Heritage 2006)

KMC: In 2008 there were three CB compilations released, called 'Archive, vol.1', Archive, vol.2' and 'Archive, vol.3'. All the albums include songs taken from demos & compilations. How did you come up the idea to put three CB compilations out?

MA: This was 10 years anniversary of CB. Again, some bootlegs were being made, with shitty quality tracks, with altered logos and artwork, with utterly stupid selection of tracks. It seemed like best moment to re-issue works in its original form, straight from the masters that were still existing.
Arrogance of bootleggers was so high, that I basically got "threat" offers, that by approving release, I get 10% free copies, by not approving, they'll do it anyway. Only way seemed to just do it better myself. It didn't stop bootleg(s?) happening, though. I
wanted to sell these Archives like the original tapes, just by myself, directly to people. Not to make them look like real albums that are sold by distributors, mailorders & shops.

KMC: 'Falling Monuments' full-length was released in 2010. This is my personal favorite Clandestine Blaze album and the song 'Call Of The Warrior' is my favorite track in the album. Can you tell what 'Call Of The Warrior lyrics are about?

MA: It is about accepting the destiny. Even in moment when result seems to be bitter loss, you're not there to seek for easy way out, but you know what has to be done. Strength and motivation instead of passivity. It's both blessing and curse.
I think lyrics should be very straight forward. This is the case with most of the lyrics of album. I think they don't need so much explanation, since the core idea is not clouded into poetry, but expressed loud and clear. At least if topics at hand aren't distant to listener.
It continues splitting the two main paths of CB lyrics. Like "Church of Atrocity" before, it has both, the harmful, predatory and abusive angle, but also plenty of focus on the triumphant and victorious virtues. Perhaps not all can see the difference, but I would expect most to do so.

KMC: How was the recording process in 'Falling Monuments'?

MA: This album, was recorded quick. Drums and vocals recorded with basically one take, from beginning of album to the end. I didn't record album song-by-song, with pauses between, but whole album at once. So when I started from first track, I proceeded through whole album until particular instrument was recorded for all songs. Everything in this album was amplified, like in rehearsals or live shows. Therefore also vocals were sung via PA system, which was captured with microphone in room. No effects used, except mild reverb in final mix. I wanted it to sound like real band would play, with no abundance of fancy effects or multiple overdubs what would be impossible to happen in actual situation of real band playing. Guitars took little more time due some technical difficulties resulted by cheap instruments not staying in tune at all. I had to discard the original guitar tracks, borrow guitar from friend and record all guitars again. This is also first album where instruments were actually tuned to specific tune. Which is standard E. In past I have not tuned instruments to any specific note, just in some relatively accurate balance between each other.
Mixing process is only time in history of band, where I actually made several different versions until settling for one of them and it took long time. Especially to get somehow sensible sound for otherwise extremely harsh ear-drill sound of guitars. Couple tracks were thrown out from album to make it good length for LP.

Clandestine Blaze - Call Of The Warrior
(from '
Falling Monuments' Northern Heritage 2010)

KMC: What is your own personal opinion about the album? Did 'Falling Monuments' turn the way you wanted?

MA: All in all, yes. There are always imperfections. I think drums may be slightly too loud in mix and I should have changed broken strings of guitar to remove certain resonance that drills your ear quite frequently on album. Perhaps little soundcheck for the drums would have made kick drum have more impact. But these are all minor details of technical qualities. What comes to actual music and lyrics, it is just as I wanted it to be. Technical flaws are just things what eventually mean album has some spirit in it. Rough edge you need. Very very rarely "perfect" album is good. Imperfection makes it perfect.

KMC: I found some internet reviews on...well all of Clandestine Blazes full-lengths and almost all of them had the same comparisons, "Sounds like early Darkthrone and Burzum and Hellhammer and Celtic Frost". What is your opinion about those comparisons?

MA: I have no problem being lumped together with best black metal bands, but anyone who actually listens black metal and can hear nuances beyond basic elements, will see that CB is often quite far of these names. Comparing with some of early pioneers is just done because everybody knows them and it's easy.


KMC: When was Northern Heritage created?

MA: 1999. It was started to release CB 1st LP and the singles that followed it.

KMC: What made you want to release music?

MA: I had been already operating label for years. Freak Animal has been putting out power electronics/noise/industrial since '93/94 and I envisioned that doing the same in context of black metal would be something what I wanted to do. Approach black metal from different angle than most big labels of the time.
My labels have always born to be method of publishing my own works. I have never been highly interested to seek labels to release my stuff. There wasn't so many labels at the time with similar vision and especially in Finland, it was very easy to simply ask some of the best BM bands to do a release. Nowadays Finnish bm is very wanted and bands have takers just about everywhere. 10+ years ago publishing something as raw and clumsy as many NH releases were, would have been out of question for most of "real labels". Now even many of the veteran labels of genre can be seen putting out filthiest sounding sloppy black metal, yet sometimes it looks like the little difference of what actually is good, is blurred by thinking extreme raw sound will make things good for "underground" audience.

KMC: All of Clandestine Blaze releases are released through Northern Heritage. Why is that?

MA: As said above, I have never felt that getting released by someone else would be somehow better option. In early days, I simply couldn't afford to finance all formats myself, so 1st LP was done by NH but CD by Blackmetal.com. 2nd and 3rd CD's were done by NH, but LP's by End All Life and tapes by Harvester.
After that I started to do everything by myself. I have complete control over everything. From beginning till end. I'm in charge from first riff or piece of lyric until release is packaged and shipped to person who wanted it. However, I was honored to be on those labels and I have nothing but positive things to say about all of them.

KMC: I asked Molestor Kadotus from Hammer of Hate this question also. Goes like this. CDs and LPs are selling poorly these days because of Spotify, and because of different kind of MP3 sites, and of course because of piratism (torrents etc). How does it affect to Northern Heritage selling? Because of all BM/DM followers and collectors are still buying all their records as LP and CD format...i'm not 100% sure, is it that way?

MA: I think people are simplifying the issue. There are many reasons why music doesn't sell as much as it did before, and some of the major things are not about mp3. I think, many people are blinded by fact, that they simply expect that everything sells, even when they completely lost perspective on surrounding culture. Both, within music and with new generations. And sheer mathematics what is doable. If you think you can put out huge amount of records, and everything goes, how could it? When there was handful of labels putting out few releases a year, which were remarkable if not even the landmarks of era, of course they would sell. At least relatively well. Now when there are hundreds of labels putting out pile of albums every month, how could it all sell? Think about the 90's style distribution list, where you had maybe 10-100 titles in stock. If you sold 10 albums a week, it was massive success. And now when you have 5000-10000 different titles in stock, selling 10 doesn't seem like anything. But how could they all sell well? Majority will never sell, and its sheer mathematics. Still, when you think about overall sales of Black Metal, one could think they could be better than ever. It simply is splintered over so large number of labels and bands.
Lets think how many black metal LP's came out in Finland in 1999? Clandestine Blaze. Warloghe… hmm.. More? In total number of c. 500 copies of LP's. Now when we think how many Finnish black metal LP's comes out in year? I would guess perhaps 20? 30? More? And add CD's, tapes, and so on.

Of course the truth is, sales have dropped significantly from the busiest years. But this would be only natural when the feeling of freshness and unique landmark releases defining their times is past. I would say majority of labels and bands simply underestimate their supporters. They expect sales, but offer nothing. It should be underlined, that there is no obligation to buy black metal. If it doesn't inspire you, why bother? If it is simply so significantly worse than the landmarks of the genre, how could you demand anyone to bother?

I think it's time to look into mirror and honestly value your own role. There's nothing bad accepting that you may be in role of simply doing something what appeals merely to handful of people. You need to adapt to this and forget some foolish rock'n'roll dreams.
This leads to situation, which is very much unpleasant. As a label boss and guy who operates both shop and mail-order, I must still say I'm disgusted by the commercial mentality of so called underground black metal. Where majority of qualities are measured by finances, sales and overall circus surrounding the genre we call black metal. At worst, when you entered live gig, all what you could see, is merchandise all over the place and hundred hands with cameras or cellphones capturing gigs to be posted online?! Everything would happen in terms of either purchasing something or spreading the moments instead of experiencing it. Like even live gig would become "collectible", instead of sermon or gathering. And that is underline by fact that about 95% of photographers would capture something not worth seeing with equipment not meant for it.

I know some people can always argue that lack of sales means lack of money and therefore it's no longer possible to make albums and stay active… bullshit. We talk about matters what should not even mean anything in first place. When labels and bands have transformed from passion into business, that's when its easy to say we have found the point of failure. Why they can't "succeed" in first place. Where labels or bands motivation is illusion of success, but no ability or will to do the actual ground work and the shit work what especially distribution/label requires.

I think most relevant people have started in situation, where absolutely nobody who was interested in what you do. We talk about labels who signed bands that were not famous or trendy. They signed them for other reasons. Of course nowadays plenty of labels have started as opportunists, and only signed bands who were made famous before they signed them. It seems this is popular at least abroad?
NH is known for pretty much signing bands very few or nobody knew at the time. First Satanic Warmaster, first
Baptism, first Exordium, first Clandestine Blaze, first Inferi, first Deathspell Omega, first Annihilatus, first Nightside, first Mgla, first Numinous, first Phlegein, and so on. Followed by being second guy or very early supporter of bands who were not too big yet or never became. Lets say like Bloodhammer, who did first 10" release on Bestial Burst (- label of Incriminated/Ride For Revenge, who all can be seen among the associates of Northern Heritage), what NH put later out as CD.
It's really easy to check out who are the popular and "hip" bands in the scene, send them offer and leech on their success. Many foreign labels seem to be into this type of method, and it has been hard to really see the traditional style where band and label is loyal to each other. Most seem act like pimps and whores, always running after next opportunity and next luring easy success. It just ain't there. There's nothing to be gained by whoring around with pimps of parasite mentality.
Or labels who operate in ways of checking out some band who fits to current trends and put it out and sell it as new great band in style of XXX and XXX. It's much more of challenge to actually stand side by side with band, with loyalty and mutual respect, with much more pure motivations which last years and years. Regardless if they are "well selling" or not. Whatever financially tough times one may have, if the motivations are pure, then what there is to worry about? Why would you bother to think will this sell a lot, if you know you will do it regardless of demand or sales?

I'm much more concerned about the mentality where this leads. Where bands are concerned by matters of building some sort of career or with the typical rock attitudes of "lets get paid". Thinking as if their material, that stands light years from landmarks of genre, would be automatic route to be noticed, simply because they sound like they think bands now should sound like to match audience expectations?

Sometimes one may wonder, where are the true black metal protagonists? I mean, like said before, why would we still look up to some old relics of Norway or some contemporary faggots that get to media? Because outsiders have taken them as their pets?
When we look into nearer past, Gelal of GBK, Darken of Graveland, Capricornus, Möbus of Absurd, etc. In Finland we may look up to Satanic Tyrant Werewolf for example. Of course many other names could be mentioned, but majority of these people are the old league that have dominated for decade if not longer.
All in all question remains: So what you got to offer now? With more bands, more labels, more outlets to express yourself.. what is there? Why would anyone care about some skinny rock star making decent riffs? Why would anyone care about some fags sell you ah so eccentric indie rock as "unique black metal"? Why would anyone
expect some turd they may have produced would be needed by anyone?
I think it's relatively easy to adjust into situation of low sales: Don't release material you can't stand behind. Don't have unreasonable expectations. Those are very easy issues to solve. There is absolutely no harm to black metal that sales would drop 80% from what is has been. If creating material isn't enough to inspire you, but you need masses of customers, maybe it's not your calling anymore.

I'm much more concerned about lack of actual substance than lack of sales. I'm much more concerned about (especially) "online scene" becoming merely big market place, where all the people who used to be into relevant ideological, spiritual, political and cultural discussion have dropped out of sight. Simply due sheer lack of motivation to take part in what things have become. And could one blame them?

KMC: How do you choose Northern Heritage releases, i mean what kind of band is suitable to be released by Northern Heritage?

MA: It has to honestly communicate with my vision of what is real black metal and I must have certainty that it's not merely passing phase or someone route to other things. I have no reason to sign bands to be in situation to regret. I have no time for opportunists or rock musicians.

KMC: What kind of band is NOT and will never be suitable to be released by Northern Heritage?

MA: False black metal. But also note that NH is not really looking for any bands. I think many labels should simply focus on the ones they have now, instead constant stream of new projects what will not matter in long run. I think it is good that bands of certain atmosphere are connected to certain label. If you check out something like Saturnian Productions. I wouldn't be into releasing such material, but I'm glad someone had vision to start gather these bands under proper roster, so to say. It would be shame to let relevant new blood scatter around the world to labels who want to have piece of "Finnish black metal", without feeling the obvious differences of sounds and motivation of various bands.

KMC: Do you get a lot demo tapes/CD-r's from bands all over looking for a record deal?

MA: I don't know what is a lot, but lets say when in first place it's pointless to send me anything outside Finland for purpose of getting signed, I get way too much. From Finland, I don't get so many, but perhaps it is also because NH is not exactly known to sign so many new bands. Latest band I signed was Phlegein, and they were not really looking for deal. It was just one of those things, when you heard something and you knew this is meant to be. I gladly offer possibility to be distributed, but for releasing stuff, I'd urge bands to consider why and where you want to be released and before sending or asking, ask yourself if you see any possibility there. It always blows up my mind thinking what in earth was this guy thinking when he sent the promo to NH. Only explanation would be he didn't have any clue of label, just seeking anyone to do anything.

KMC: What’s your personal favorite album/albums released through Northern Heritage?

MA: I don't rate anything to favorites. They all appeal to specific feeling or need. You can't put order to albums that are so different as label has done.

KMC: Next releases coming from Northern Heritage?

MA: Numinous LP/CD and Bloodhammer 7" should be next. 2011/2012 should come new releases by known NH bands a'la Satanic Warmaster, Mgla, Baptism, Uncreations Dawn and so on. I don't completely rule out possibility of signing new bands, but as you can see, even the old roster keeps me busy.

KMC: Thank you for the interview.

MA: Thanks for interest.