: One of the main points of Transcendental Black Metal is breaking away from the foundation of black metal. Why, then, do you think it’s important not only to label your music as black metal, but to label it at all?
: It seems to me people imagine that I really disrespect black metal--that I think all black metal is bad or all black metal is inferior to my band. That’s not what I’m saying in that document. I think of Transcendntal Black Metal as an outgrowth of certain characteristics or eventualities of black metal that I want to focus on. There are certain features of black metal that I’m done with and don’t want to focus on. As someone who takes what music means really seriously, I think that black metal in itself, transcendental or not, is something really special in the history of rock music. It has this larger historical referentiality, and the second wave has these figures that are enormously courageous. I’m really inspired by that aspect of it. I love black metal. So many musicians, especially in independent music or experimental music, want to say, “Oh, my music is undefinable. I don’t belong to any tradition. The music speaks for itself.” That’s fine, but I’m really intrigued by the opposite act of giving something a label, especially a controversial label, to connect it to a tradition and see how it resonates with that tradition.
SLUG: A lot of places that have been giving positive reviews to Aesthethica, such as Pitchfork and Tiny Mix Tapes, are not traditionally “metal” outlets. How important do you think it is for the people who listen to your music to have an understanding of Transcendental Black Metal or metal in general to appreciate your music and where you’re coming from?
Hunt-Hendrix: I think it’s pretty exciting when people come up to me and say, “I don’t even know what kind of music you were just playing, but I think it was awesome.” I wouldn’t be too disappointed to find out that someone unfamiliar with black metal appreciates Liturgy. I like the idea of being able to reach people with the music without any labels attached. I know that sounds like it contradicts what I said earlier, but both things are kind of true. The music is ultimately not directed at any one audience. I didn’t make it for the black metal scene or for any other scene. It’s kind of fascinating to me how someone would hear our music and what it would sound like to them if they don’t normally enjoy black metal. It’s cool to get into someone’s head and figure out what they’re thinking about.
SLUG: In Transcendental Black Metal you talk about the need to create a uniquely American form of black metal. Do you think any other American bands are creating music similar to Liturgy or music that fits the ideal of Transcendental Black Metal?
Hunt-Hendrix: There’s more and more black metal in America, and there are awesome bands doing awesome different things. As far as I’m aware, there’s no one who’s really taking it in the direction that we’re taking it in. I’m not disappointed by that or anything. One of the article’s that was brought to my attention talked about how I am ruining black metal in America because I’m creating “rules” for what black metal has to be. That’s not my intention--Transcendental Black Metal is more of a vision of a possible form of American black metal.
SLUG: How did you come to work with Thrill Jockey Records? Why did you decide to work with them rather than a label more known for putting out metal records?
Hunt-Hendrix: It’s kind of weird how things worked out. After our first record came out, they were super interested in putting out the next one, and a lot of metal labels weren’t super interested. Even at that stage we were kind of weirding metal people out. I could imagine a label worrying about their reputation for putting out a “false metal” band or something like that. There’s a lot to be said for 20 Buck Spin for putting out our first record. It’s a legit metal label, and they were interested in putting out weird stuff that didn’t really fit the metal mold, so it was perfect timing for us to put out our first album with them.
SLUG: Some people have mentioned that the cover of Aesthethica looks similar to the cover of Slayer’s God Hates Us All. Is there any connection there? If not, what is the meaning behind the album cover?
Hunt-Hendrix: I can’t really say. It doesn’t symbolize anything in particular. I made the album cover, and it was just an intuitive choice. I wanted to create something that looked very meaningful, but in a way that I couldn’t specify. I had actually never seen that Slayer cover until I had already designed the cover for our new album.
SLUG: You’ll be playing at Kilby Court in Salt Lake as part of your next tour, which is a really cool venue, but not one that typically caters to more aggressive music. Have you found that Liturgy is playing in more and more non-metal places?
Hunt-Hendrix: We’ve never played in Salt Lake City before. We’re stoked to be there for the first time. So far for us, it’s a hodgepodge. It’s almost a game we play in the van of “is this gonna be a metal show or a weird rock show?”. It goes back and forth. We play non-metal shows a little more than metal shows at this point. A year ago it was pretty evenly balanced, but it was leaning more towards metal shows. As our identity has slowly been taking shape in people’s identities, I think it’s gone from promoters putting us on shows with all black metal bands to putting us on shows with arty noise punk bands.