For almost two decades, New Jersey black metal outfit Krieg have been bringing their own style of American frost to the hordes, whether they like it or not. With that time has come the advent of many changes, most of which can be felt on the band’s latest release, Transient. I spoke with the band’s mastermind, Neil Jameson (vocals, various instruments) about the new disc, as well as his influences and the large number of split EPs that he has released in the last few years leading up to the album. I also asked him about his thoughts on human civilization as well as the world at large and some of the experiences that he’s had on the road. It was quite an interesting experience.
You guys have been around for quite a while. Tell me about how the band progressed from the early nineties to today. Obviously there’s quite a large difference between Rise Of The Imperial Hordes and Transient.
It’s a variation of a lot of different factors which drive whatever evolution I’ve taken over the last two decades. Most noticeable is probably the fact I’m finally learning how to actually write on guitar and not just bashing strings until something sounds right. I’ve spent a lot of time, especially the last two or three years, working on songwriting and trying to forget any kind of genre rules in the process. It’s not like I’m trying to go for something “different” but rather I’m becoming a lot more comfortable using the other forms of music I indulge in as more outright influences. You can hear postpunk as far back as Blue Miasma but nothing very overt like on this record. Also important is that I’m getting older and with that I have a larger well of experience to draw from for inspiration. Early Krieg was very obviously just about violence in an almost fantasy setting, but I was also a teenager. I used to take less thought about what I wanted to say which resulted in some very adolescent rebellion, like I was trying to be as offensive and shocking as I possibly could be. I never really thought about consequences from my words. Krieg up until The Black House had no real focus other than this sheer aggression. The last ten years or so it’s been more important to me to create an honest expression regardless of whether or not this pleases anyone but myself.
Let’s talk about Transient. It’s your first album in four years, despite a few splits and EP’s over the course of the writing/recording process. What exactly was your goal for this album and do you believe you’ve achieved it?
As I stated before, honestly is very important to me. My goal was to create an honest document of who I am right now. Sonically I wanted something that matched some of the heavier moments of Amebix, His Hero is Gone, Antisect and others with some of the morose feelings that you get when listening to Joy Division or Killing Joke. I didn’t focus on making a “black metal” record per say, but there’s a lot of moments where my roots in bands like Judas Iscariot really shine through. Overall I am incredibly satisfied with the result but if you ask me that again in a year or so that might change. I’m constantly thinking of what’s next for me artistically.
You’ve recorded an obscene number of splits over the last few years, with several different acts like Ramlord, Wolvehammer, Moloch and others. Oddly enough, the material on those splits is vastly different from what is on this release. Why did you decide to do such a large number of split EPs? There’s enough material on all of them combined to equal up to the length of a full record. Of course, I think it’s a great way to get the attention out about some lesser known acts.
The original idea was honestly to do an album’s worth of material through several releases because I hadn’t gotten the green light from Candlelight to do the new record yet and I had so many ideas brewing that I didn’t want them to go to waste. There’s even more to come next year. Splits are important to me because it shows a bond between artists. Wolvhammer for instance, have been great friends of mine for years and this just seemed like something we should have done years ago.
So let’s talk about that writing process for Transient. Obviously, you guys were writing a ton of songs (and I’m sure that there’s a ton more of them still to be released in the future) at the time, but you felt that some were better left saved for the next album, so you set them aside. Of course, I’m just guessing here.
Not really. Anything that didn’t end up being recorded was thrown away to either disappear or be reworked at a later time.
How were the recordings for Transient? Where did you record them and how long did the process take? What was the atmosphere like during that process?
We recorded at Machines with Magnets in Rhode Island where I had recorded the unreleased collaboration with The Body in 2013. Seth and Keith who operate the studio were great to work with and had a lot of interesting ideas and approaches to what we were doing without being invasive or pulling any kind of Phil Spector kind of shit. The record took five days overall. It was heavily focused because we were all aware of the time constraints and the rest of the band had to return back to Philadelphia after three days for work obligations.
Let’s focus on the sound of this beast. There’s actually a style to the record that involves a sort of cold, post-metal atmosphere which definitely changes altogether when you add electronics and spoken word vocals on “Home.” Even still, there’s “Winter” which almost has a punk meets post Killing Joke sound to it. Some might even question whether it’s still “black metal” at this point.
“Winter” isn’t black metal, it’s a cover of Amebix. We’ve been doing it live for a few years now and I’ve always felt that was an incredibly bleak song to begin with which suited the atmosphere of the record perfectly. I’ve already seen people say this isn’t a black metal record or they’re attaching “post” whatever to it. My concern wasn’t a genre tag, it was to create a very dark record.
Lyrically, what are you focusing on with Transient? The cover itself seems rather dim, echoing some sort of notion that even though we’re facing some tough times, these might eventually disappear. Additionally, what exactly are you trying to say with “Home?” I’ve listened to it quite a few times and find some of the things you’re mentioning here quite agreeable. I find myself getting more paranoid by society every day.
“Home” is the thesis statement of the record. It’s two parts echo some of the more personal and darker sentiments of mine, the first part being the more aggressive and disgusted while the second being the more paranoid and reclusive. The lyrics for the record vary between those ideas.
What do you think of those people who question the style you’ve taken on this record compared to the classic albums in the past? Does it even matter? You don’t seem like the kind of band to care much about people’s opinions.
Who gives a fuck? They likely weren’t around when I started this band and they won’t be around when I finish it. Sure a lot of the “old school” types are going to hate it but let’s be honest here – they only give a fuck about Slayer and bands that fall into that idolatry aspect. They wouldn’t like anything I do at this point and they never really have. People have small minds and big opinions and if I worried about that sort of thing I’d be a nervous wreck more so than I already am.
Do you really think we’re reaching the tipping point as far as civilization is concerned, or just the United States? Obviously, you’ve seen what happened in Ferguson with our “military police” that most of us didn’t even know we had. It is starting to seem like George Orwell might not have been so far off as to our future.
The militarization of the police force is appalling. Why the fuck do small towns need tanks? Armored vehicles? It’s bad enough that it seems every racist asshole is able to put on a badge and go murder citizens because he’s upset that he’s getting cuckolded at home or whatever the case may be. People defend this action by saying the kid assaulted the cop. So what? Shoot him in the fucking leg, I’m pretty sure that still fucking hurts and will drop him. Don’t these assholes have to shoot targets at the range anyway? Regardless of all that and whatever side you may fall on that issue, anyone who thinks the idea of turning this country into an armed police state is fucking brain dead and easily led. Both sides politically are ineffective and do not, I cannot stress this part enough – DO NOT give a fuck about the common man and woman in this country, or in any country really. And the average American citizen doesn’t care about that either. They don’t care about their world, their environment or their health. They care about nothing. This is a nihilistic society under the guise of religion which people only believe in so that they have some kind of reward at the end of their lives.
What do you do when you’re not playing in the band or playing music at all? What sorts of hobbies do you have? What sort of day job do you have? What are some things you might recommend?
I mostly work at the record store and make observations about people via social media to fill up my days. I read and work on my writing when I have time. I’ve become obsessed with going to the gym, which most people reading this will find difficult to believe, but fuck them too. Outside of that I don’t really have much to say about my personal life that is at all interesting to someone else.
What are some of your top favorite albums of all time and why do you consider them great or influential?
The entire Judas Iscariot catalog, Beherit Drawing Down the Moon, the majority of the Darkthrone catalog and all Profanatica for black metal. They’re just very deeply important records to me which helped shape me as a young lad and I still find value in them to this day. I listen to a lot of crust, especially during the last few years and powerviolence so my favorites out of there would be Amebix, Tragedy, Misery, Doom, Dropdead, Mind Eraser, His Hero is Gone and others. I really can connect with the desolate idea of how bad the world is becoming and how awful we are to one another. I also spend a lot of time listening to morose and gloomy music like Chelsea Wolfe, Mark Lanegan, Joy Division and The Smiths. I know this doesn’t answer the question directly but I can’t really narrow down my list of favorites otherwise I’d give you two thousand words on why Poison Idea and Queens of the Stone Age are relevant to my life.
Let’s talk about touring. What are some of the best moments you’ve had on tour and who have you had the opportunity to meet while on the road? Additionally, what are some of the worse moments you’ve had on tour where you were just like, “fuck this, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to play here anymore.”
We’ve had a lot of good experiences on the road. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Europe but places like Serbia and Belgium were great experiences with some of the best people I’ve ever had a chance to talk to. For as miserable as I am to be around, I try to make the best out of every live situation because regardless of the circumstances, because there are people who paid their own money that they worked for to see us and to give them a shit performance because I’m grumpy or menstruating or whatever is a fucking failure on my part. I know that I’ve done this a few times over the years too and I hate that it happened. I don’t know if we’re banned from playing anywhere for anything that we’ve done but I did throw a bottle into the crowd at a festival once and fucked up a lot of things there. I’m very lucky I didn’t seriously hurt anyone or cause any more damage than I did. A lot of the best and worst stories aren’t really things that people need to read about.
What do you believe in, if anything? And what do you think about all this ISIS/ISIL stuff going on in the Middle East, as well as the myriad of other things that are happening out there? Some of these people used to be US citizens and now they’re talking about coming over here to kill us and our president as they try to brainwash us into Islam, which I think is far worse than Christianity!
I believe in myself and what I do with my life. I don’t necessarily believe in any religion, especially none as how they are dictated these days. Organized religion is one of the most harmful and intolerant forces in the world. It causes damage everywhere. Look at the AIDS epidemic in Africa because they’re taught birth control is a sin. Doesn’t the church also believe murder is a sin? Because they people are murdering each other because of their blind faith in some assholes in a city with more wealth than most countries. By this logic every one of the clergy who preach again birth control are going to hell for murder because these people’s blood is on their hands. As far as ISIS or whatever they’re calling themselves this week there’s absolutely no easy solution. These people aren’t afraid to die, you can’t break their spirits through that sort of thing. We’ve already been fucking up two wars over there the last decade and a half, this isn’t an organized sort of “line em up and fucking shoot at em” sort of thing like WWII with battlefields and clear objectives. And the more you fight them, the more others who may not have been into the more extremist vision of Islam to begin with might start considering it. You can only cut off the head so many times. I don’t have any ideas and also even if I did it’s not like I have the position to call up Obama and go hang out for a smoke break and outline my grand strategy anyway.
Finally, what’s next for Krieg after Transient? Where can we see you live?
Next year is year twenty so we’re planning some interesting things for which I’m sure I’ll open up my mouth and blab about soon enough. As for seeing us live, it looks like mostly on the east coast for the rest of this year and hopefully west coast early next.
Thanks for answering my questions and for a fantastically bleak, yet real album. It’s definitely more of an expression than you get with a lot of the satanic bands these days. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you.