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Funprox Interview
Funprox Interview
Press / Radio - Interviews
Saturday, 15 February 2003 00:00
Funprox.com Webzine

interview:
Asmodeus X
February 2003

A relatively new act from Houston, Texas. They intrigued me with their variety of styles, to be found on their album "Wolf Age". Asmodeus X says to be influenced by Joy Division, Laibach, Kraftwerk, Death in June and KLF. Despite a somewhat grim image they have a few very poppy synth tunes on their repertoire... Various obscure philosophical concepts seem to form an important aspect of the band. Reasons enough to arouse my curiosity, Paul Fredric was so kind as to try to enlighten me.


Can you introduce Asmodeus X and its bandmembers in a few sentences?

Paul Fredric: We have Marshal on keyboards, and myself doing programming, vocals, Theremin.

When and how did Asmodeus X come into existence? Were you active in music before?

PF: Asmodeus X came into being about three years ago. Prior to that Marshal and I were in a gothic/darkwave musical project. There were elements within this prior group that wanted to move more in a 'glam' kind of direction, which Marshal and I found rather abhorrent.

Eventually, this led to us splitting off and seeking a new paradigm of musical expression, something a little more real and resonant. We had both long shared an interest in mythology and the 'darkside' of history and psychology, as well as tended to find ourselves working in electronic mediums, so we just sort of naturally moved in this direction.

From where comes the bandname 'Asmodeus X'?

PF: Asmodeus is a concept that has been close to me for many years. When we were looking at beginning a new project, it again presented itself, and so it was decided to incorporate the concept directly via the name of the group. The name itself is of Babylonian origin. On the surface, Asmodeus is simply a demon of avarice and luxury. Beneath that, one finds a more complex conception of tripartite alchemy. In other words, Asmodeus is also a model for self-willed transformation utilizing the three essential forces of the cosmos - positive, negative, and neutralizing forces. The X was added at the end for a number of reasons. To begin with, it brings the Kabbalistic sum of the word to Three. Also, it indicates the rune Gebo, which means 'gift' and implies the notion of divine inspiration.

Your work seems to have a wide range of musical influences. Which are the most important ones?

PF: It's really hard to say which are most important. Marshal, I and whoever else works with us brings something unique to the table. We try to avoid discarding an influence simply because it may be considered taboo, in fact we may from time to time be drawn to certain influences simply because they are generally considered taboo. When expectations are shattered, people begin to question, and from the question many strange things may be born.

At first all our works taken as a whole often strike people as being rather diverse, but beneath it all, there is a thread of continuity -- something which makes it all uniquely Asmodeian. I often find myself influenced more by works that imply something a little deeper than the mechanicalness of ordinary life.

And do you think it's possible to combine them all, or would it not be better to focus on a distinct style?

PF: It would be very difficult for me to do this, stay within the parameters of a certain musical style. For me it would be like putting on blinders to walk through Disneyland. There is a point in the creative process where one has to simply let it go to evolve on it's own. It may take you places you hadn't expected, but the mystery of it all is half the fun. I'd rather just focus on the creative end of things, and allow others to attend to the business of categorizing it, because they'll eventually do that anyhow.

I quote your website: "Synthesizing electro, darkwave, neo-folk, expressionist, Goetic, Objectivist and Left-Hand Path elements, Asmodeus X is creating a unique hybrid for a visionary future." Could you comment on the last three elements for our less-informed readers?

PF: "Goetic" or the "Goetia" refers to a system of Black Magic which can be traced back to Medieval Europe. It contains a variety of symbols, words, and writings centering around such concepts alchemy, transformation, and praeter-human intelligences. There is much disagreement on the origins of the Goetia, but some suspect that it contains the fragments of an ancient and esoteric system that was practiced prior to the Catholic Church's dominance over European thought. It was perhaps beneath the cloak of the Goetia that the Left-Hand Path survived throughout Medieval Europe, and as 'Sons of Europa' we may look to the Goetia as our closest connection with something ancient and esoteric. "Objectivist" can have many meanings. Generally it refers to an ideal of perceiving things impartially - to see things as they truly are without all the biases, prejudices, and collected associations that generally cloud man's perception. It also refers to a system developed in the writings of American author Ayn Rand, which places the individual at the center of the universe.

"Left-Hand Path" is an esoteric term referring to a system of self-development which places the conscious evolution of the individual as a primary concern. This may be contrasted by the term "Right-Hand Path", which refers to spiritual/religious systems which attempt to undermine the importance of the individual in favor of supplication towards an organizational ideology.

All three go into the conceptual mix that emerges as Asmodeus X.

Is there a central theme on your latest cd "Wolf-Age"?

PF: The Wolf-Age theme began really emerging following 'the crash' in 2000. The wolf as a survivor was most relevant. Many of the songs on Wolf-Age deal with concepts like survival, triumph over adversity, etc., which struck us all as rather wolfish. As America began mobilizing for war about a year ago, the Fenris Wolf and his role in the Volupsa (from the poetic Eddas) emerged as a primary inspiration, and was crystallized in the song "Wolf in the Sky". We live in an age of conflict - conflict around us and conflict within. Wolf-Age sings of both but focuses on the internal, as it is only through inner struggle that man may move toward liberation.

I get the impression that the aesthetic side of Asmodeus X is quite important. To me it often looks quite militant or teutonic. How would you describe it yourself?

PF: The aesthetic side is more for us than it is for our audience. I suppose it began with a desire to keep things simple yet dignified. The militant aspects help to remind us of the internal warfare we all must engage in to assert our individuality on the universe. To exist is to struggle, to cease struggle is to sleep.

Personally I get the feeling that your image is quite a bit darker than your music, which sounds rather cheerful in songs like 'Song of Glory'. What is your opinion about that?

PF: Our songs attempt to cover a variety of experiences and emotional shades throughout the continuum of the 'struggle for existence'. Wolf Age, like the struggle for life itself, is sometimes dark, brooding, contemplative, yet at other times triumphant, celebratory, and reflective. If we disregarded this and simply tried to make all the songs sound dark, we'd be guilty of leaving part of the story untold.

Are there important non-musical matters that influence your work, like art, literature, traveling, movies?

PF: Most certainly. All the impressions we collect tend to emerge in the music in some form or another. Mythology is a big influence, be it Norse, Gnostic, Egyptian, or Arthurian. In the literary world we find ourselves reading books by people like Julius Evola, Jack London, Ayn Rand, Stephen Flowers, Isha Schwaller De Lubicz, John Anthony West, etc.

Film provides a lot of inspiration as well. For instance, the films of Akira Kurosawa, George Lucas, and John Carpenter have all had their effects on us.

Is Asmodeus X a political-inclined band, and if so, which messages would you like to convey through your music?

PF: This is an interesting question in light of the current political situation in America. To us it really makes no difference whether there is war or not. Wars are never the result of such disagreements as propagandists would have us believe. Wars are rather the result of cosmic influences. Humans multiply, burning up the earths resources, and eventually they start killing eachother (usually after spending a lot of time crying about the importance of 'love'). The politics of the human masses are of little concern to us. We feel it is the duty of every conscious being to struggle toward individual sovereignty, and if there is a "message" in our music it will probably be found along these lines.

To struggle for individual sovereignty one must be able to avoid external distractions, like political issues. Political issues in the world at large stem always from the goals of another man, or group of men. To subscribe to them is to enlist in another man's army, and to offer him your life to utilize as he will. This is not a decision to be made lightly. Indeed there are times when we must band together with others to fight against a common enemy, but one must be careful not to forget one's self.

When you begin looking into the warrior as an archetype, you find there is a higher meaning to the concept of self-sacrifice. For instance, the Code of Bushido adhered to by the Samurai. Unfortunately, such concepts are absent, or present only in a diluted form, in most modern systems of soldiery.

Your cd mentions 'Black Pepper Records' as the label. Is this your own label and will it be used more often?

PF: Black Pepper is a cooperative effort involving us, The Apep Foundation as well as a few entities outside of our immediate circle. Previous to Wolf Age we had been working through St. Thomas Records in Southern California. Our first EP, and a couple of subsequent singles, were released through St. Thomas. It eventually became clear that St. Thomas was aiming in a different direction than us, and so we decided to forge ahead by our own efforts.

Are you such a fan of The Partridge Family that you wanted to honour them with a cover on Wolf Age? Or were there other reasons?

PF: Some years ago I spent a summer frolicking in woods of Wisconsin with some initiates of the Partridge Family Temple. Up to that point, I was probably just as confused about the Partridge Family as you! Then Giddle Partridge taught me about the esoteric connection between Albuquerque and Valhalla - something to ponder indeed. The next morning I awoke with that song stuck in my head - Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque.

That's where it all started anyhow, so I guess that does make me a fan in some sense. The song appears as a homage to that magical summer in Wisconsin, and there is also a connection with the Fenris Wolf and the events leading up to his eventual release from bondage. It's placement on the album as the last song is also relevant, if the album is taken as a whole and complete work in itself.

What kind of equipment do you use? And how does a typical Asmodeus X song-creating process look like?

PF: Our arsenal is perhaps somewhat brutal by todays standards. We use a Korg N364 keyboard, a Korg ES-1 sampler, and a Boss DR-5 Sequencer for most of our stuff. A song usually begins with me coming up with basic sequences, either directly off the board, or in connection with something I came up with on the Acoustic Guitar. Next Marshal and I begin working together on midi-ing the sequences through the Korg units. Then we all just kind of work through it and tweak things from there.

With only rare exceptions, most of our song ideas are born from experiences that one or all of us have had.

Your website mentioned a near fatal accident. What happened? And has it effected your mentality?

PF: In November of 2000 we were returning from a tour of the West Coast. On the boarder of California, the bus we were using overheated, and we were instructed by it's owner, Al Rutger of Fjardesson studios, to leave it for the time and find another transport. We rented a cargo truck and continued on from there.

So about 3am somewhere in west Texas we were moving along nice and peaceful, sensing that the worst was behind us and looking forward to returning home to our families and loved ones. Marshal, Faust and I were all asleep in the back with the gear, our Road Manager, and additional Keyboardist up front at the wheel. I awoke to the sensation of a strong rumbling, and quickly realized we were no longer on the road. No sooner had the terror of the situation struck me than everything when black - I heard crashing sounds and twisting metal, and felt myself being tossed around against various hard objects - not unlike a puppy in a clothes dryer.

Eventually I came to rest sliding on a sheet of aluminum, which turned out to be the side of the truck's cargo bay. I looked up, and saw the ceiling of the truck in front of me, torn completely out and framing the road behind us, upon which was strewn a tattered trail of our gear reaching back a good 25 yards.

As we regrouped on the highway, we found that we were all unharmed except for a few bruises. The state trooper who found us shined his flashlight over the wreckage, shook his head, and said, "You boys should be dead".

As we pieced it together, the cause of the wreck was a dear running across the highway. The driver instinctually swerved to avoid missing him, taking us off-road. As he struggled to get back on the pavement, reentering at an angle, gravity pushed against the side of the truck causing it to topple and roll over three full sides.

It certainly did change our perspective on things, as I'm sure it must all who live through such an experience. As I mentioned before, it was in the aftermath of this that the seed-forms of Wolf Age began to appear. The track "What is Strong?" is in my mind an excellent summation of this impression.

I also read that your music is used for a film called 'Shut eye'. Can you tell us something about that?

PF: This is an independent film directed by John Covert out of Chicago. I have only seen clips of it myself up to this point, but know it involves people in black shooting at each other. I believe In Strict Confidence and Stromkern are also going to be on the soundtrack. Like many others I'm sure, we're looking forward to seeing the final product as well.

Do you have jobs/studies besides your musical activities? And do you see that as a burden or as an enrichment?

PF: Certainly, we all have many studies and activities out side of Asmodeus X. For myself, whatever I'm looking into or experiencing at the time becomes inexorably tied with my musical work. The music becomes a reflection not only of what we've been experiencing, but the directions we are focusing on as well.

You live in Houston, Texas. How is the musical climate there? And do you think the environment you live in has an effect on your music?

PF: Absolutely, environment has a strong effect. Houston is one of the most technologically oriented cities in America. It is home to NASA, which was at one time the nexus of the space program. This emphasis on technological advancement I believe is not only a factor influencing us, but many of the other groups in the scene here as well, like Provision, Bamboo Crisis, M87, etc. The scene here is very active with industrial/electronic/synth-pop music. But then what we do also has an effect on the environment, so there is a system of reciprocal maintenance.

Have you already been playing live? How would an Asmodeus X concert look/sound like?

PF: Yes, we have been playing live for quite some time now in Texas and California mainly. There are some live clips being used in the video for "Wolf in the Sky". We often utilize banners, open flame sources, daggers, and so forth. I think live performance is essential to the organic aspect of the project. It helps circulate the flow of energy and impressions by interacting with an audience in such a manner.

Are you also involved in any other artistic projects?

PF: I may be working with Alice Karlsdottir, whom appeared on the last Fire and Ice CD, on doing some Edda-oriented folk music. I'm also currently working on a remix for a Canadian ambient project called Minefield. We're also working with some other artists/DJ's in the area on so remixes of some of the Wolf Age material.

Which songs are the most rewarding to yourselves so far? And how has the response of the press been?

PF: That is a tough question as I have come to view Wolf Age as such a whole and complete creature unto itself. I would probably have count Wolf in the Sky as one of my favorites. It is, perhaps, a 'song of hope'.

Press response has been on the whole positive, with a little controversy. Not many 'get' the Partridge Family thing, as was to be expected. I think some have been frustrated by attempts to categorize it. My Achilles Heel as an artist is probably my negligence of genres, which may be connected with my somewhat reclusive lifestyle. I can only handle so much of people. But if anyone finds a spark of something that resonates with them in our work then I am pleased. I'd rather cut to the point and deeply, then broadly and shallow. So much of the music begins as something for me - something I need to do for my own sake, so it becomes difficult to draw a clear line where work for the self ceases and work for others begins. If everyone thought it was great THEN I'd be worried.

Does Asmodeus X have any future plans?

PF: We'll probably be touring out to the West Coast again in the spring of 2003. There is also talk of re-releasing the Cult of the Naassarene EP as well, which features some of our more ambient and neo-classical efforts. And of course we're beginning development on new material, but who can say what direction that my take us.

A classic question:
if you were banned to a desert island and you could bring along 5 records, which would that be?

PF: At the moment I'm enjoying the new Covenant album, Northern Light, so that would probably come along. In such an untainted environment, it's hard to say if modern music would still have any meaning or function, but I would probably find myself wanting to hear something more organic. Death in June - Rose Clouds of Holocaust, Radio Werewolf - Songs for the End of the World, Jimi Hendrix - Electric Lady Land, and then maybe the new Johnny Cash album - The Man Comes Around.

Any final thoughts?

PF: I think everything is changing with the music scene. The internet, international head-butting, and multiple disasters are all making for a big void in which something new may be created, and there are a lot of new and dynamic creations emerging from it. I look upon FunProx as one of them, and am glad we had this opportunity to exchange. In the end, it is the rhythmic fire of being which remains holy.