MERCIFUL NUNS – Interview XIBALBA
I am driven by the search for the origins of faith, the source of all world religions and the eternal question why we dwell on this Earth. – Artaud Seth
Sarru mass Artaud, thanks for this opportunity to interview you. It’s a real pleasure for me, Nay and Armide because basically we share the same passion for the true knowledge that lies behind all early cultures, what we Nunners call civilization one, and of course Real Goth. The Merciful Nuns’ topics range from Crowley magick, the Mayan prophecies to the ancient astronauts and I know what lies behind the concept is the same old mystery that subdues humanity yet still pulsates spiritually. Do you see the Nuns’ concept as a work of art, or as a development of specific transcendental knowledge? Did you want to haunt your listeners? Artaud: (laughs) No, why should I do that? Xibalba is just the place where a dead soul will suffer according to Mayan tradition. It’s definitely not my intension to haunt someone else. But maybe it was the intension of the ancient Mayans. But I tell you something: I am imbued these days by a distinct and pronounced conviction of having a real mission here on Earth. This may sound arrogant, but nonetheless I do believe to being close to the truth about the meaning behind our existence and its origins. What exactly is religion? And where does the desire for spirituality originate? And why do we seek to be close to God or the Gods? The more I delve into the multitude of different faiths, the clearer its core or source becomes. Everything has one common denominator: We have been visited and called this visitor: God.
Let’s talk about pre-historic space travel; where do you see a correlation between these visitations and pre-historic space travel? Artaud: It represents a rather plausible explanation for the „inexplicable“, sudden cultural surge in our evolution. Just before this surge we were simple hunters and gathers, only to find ourselves at the peak of advanced civilisation within a few decades. What is rather interesting is the fact that almost all early cultures share a commonality in their myths and legends. One or more beings came from the skies riding on flying machines and brought with them knowledge. They were revered throughout and perceived as gods. And thus developed the concept of religion almost simultaneously all over the world.
One aspect of pre-historic space travel invariably concerns the origins of mankind. What is your take on the notion that humans did not simply evolve but where supposed to be created by ancient astronaut-gods? Artaud: I can offer no explanations, only food for thought. However, in view of what I have been able to see, read and experience I am perhaps more inclined to be more critical in analysing these things and less gullible than someone who cannot see beyond the framework of Christian indoctrination. I could have made the same reference about fatuity in connection with Islamic, Jewish or Hindu indoctrination; ultimately there is no distinction between the world’s religions. The truth can be found in the origin of faith and most certainly not within fallible human interpretation by any particular preacher. Where do we come from? For the most part we were created by God or the gods. Perhaps we were here all along and were merely enhanced and educated. In any event, there are plenty of indications that we were at least “visited”.
How do you go about selecting your subject matters? Do you refer to transmitted ancient texts or do you include secondary literature like books from, say, Sitchin? Or perhaps both? Artaud: Everything I can find about ancient, lost or forgotten civilisations can serve as inspiration. Zecharia Sitchin certainly falls into that category. The “12th planet” or “the cosmic code” are sitting on my bookshelf and are certainly recommendable.
With Xibalba III you’re taking us into the Mayan underworld and, in my view, a journey into our inner self. In preparation for this interview I have naturally delved into the Mayan myths, the Popol Vuh and last but not least of course your work. When one enters the subject matter of the underworld/Xibalba III one inevitably finds oneself confronted with the aspects of suffering, dying and death as well as reincarnation. To the Mayans death was apparently not the end but rather an act of creation as shown in the myth of Hunahpu and Xbalanqué who accept dying as an integral part of life. A beautiful perception: death nurturing life… the eternal cycle of nature. Such acceptance does not come easy to everybody though! How do you feel about the subject? For example do you believe in reincarnation? Would you even consider taking part in a session of repatriation? Artaud: Obviously I travel a lot, but never had the opportunity to travel beyond the veils of death. And if I could I would be not sure it would be a good idea, coz as far as I know no one ever comes back. And believe me: I really like to be here on this side! But I was there in fiction. Which means I travel through ancient books and manuscripts into the Underworld. The main document for this was the aforementioned Popul Vuh, the famous Mayan book of the dead.
The intro of Xibalba is truly overwhelming and conveys the impression; creating an atmosphere that we are truly capable to be witnesses to a mystic moment. Please, where does the idea to add the background sound of your voice speaking in spanish come from? Artaud: Let it be known that these words are not mine but those of an elder Mayan priest. It is said: The ancestors and the men of wisdom shall return during the time of 12. Baktun and 13. Ahau. Let the morning break and the sun rise once again! Herewith I deliver unto you the message: Fear not! Embrace this message and spread it across the world. The central thoughts about this you can find within the lyrics of “Year Zero”.
The world is approaching time zero, the state of last and first. Whilst everyone struggles in a system that no longer serves, which is obsolete. Awake artists, warn of awakening. The Nuns framed as goth rock artists are one with their time. As a prelude to the year zero, you invite us to descend into Xibalba, like the ancient initiated into the mysteries over Ku Kul Kan. Is all mankind entering Xibalba? Do you see this as a collective initiation or an individually process? Artaud: Clearly, the Maya put a great deal of work into this cycle, and it appears that they were warning us that this cycle causes periodically massive cataclysms. The more we find out about this cycle of the mayan calendar, the more we want to know when it will be. Then we know that we can stop going to work, sit outside, relax in a lawn chair and wait for the end of time. But this end won’t come! At least not on that date. Fact is the mayan calender will stop at the date of 188.8.131.52.0. which is in our time the 21th of December 2012. But don’t worry, there will be a day after, coz the Mayans always think in cycles. Besides, I have already accepted gigs for 2013, which I would like to honour. If I were to believe the end of the world were nigh I would hardly be doing that now, would I? (laughs).
The second song on the album is called “Radiation”. The disturbance from recently discovered Solar activity causes the awakening of the ancient god asleep? Artaud: “Radiation” is about the shift of ages! A transition, triggered by the conclusion of the Grand Cycle has already begun; signalled by the shift in the cosmic resonance’s frequency. This shift announces the completion of the Grand Cycle and offers an insight into the radiance of our galactic, solar and planetary reality in the successional era due to commence in the year 184.108.40.206.0. By the way, I have designed the seal on the album’s front cover; it shows the end date 220.127.116.11.0 according to the Mayan’s original numeric codex.
Listening to Xibalba, I have not doubt you embrace all the ancient energy to compose these remarkable songs. Do think there will be a sequel to this album or is there something completely new about to come; I mean will you focus on other ancient cultures for your future compositions? Artaud: Each album is unique and stands for itself. If you go deeper into the music and if you are able to see and understand all those spoken, sung and hidden words then you’ll see the red line between the albums. It’s about finding our roots. The origin of it all. But I don’t have a problem if you only like the music.
From my humble perspective the most impressive songs are ¨Year Zero” and “18.104.22.168.0.¨ because of the emphasis on the bass line plus the mixture of the drums. The same powerful sound we heard on “God Aeon” the last time. Why is it so important to emphasise the bass line and drums? Because it’s like Merciful Nuns’ signature, a deep sound style? Artaud: I am indeed partial to the deepest bass lines and cold, sober drumming void of emotions. They should accentuate the songs in a simple but very precise and effective manner. I am determined to drag the Goth Rock of the present into a new direction. Away from the time worn and dust covered Goth cliché into a hopefully ground-breaking approach based on good contemporary production in conjunction with intelligent concepts and a brooding emotion long thought of as forgotten and to bring it all together in one harmonious concept which finds its expression in the typical “Merciful Nuns” sound.
I do remember your comment during one of the Necromanteion Radio Shows, you mentioned that you hate drummers. Please could you tell us why? Artaud: (laughs) Did I? Can’t remember. However I don’t want have a drummer on stage. That’s true.
Your songs are composed to be performed in an integrated way of theatrical and dramatic vocal expression. Have you studied techniques of recitation or performance? Do you have classical vocal training? Artaud: No. But I will swear I will do this soon.
I know during your interview within Oskar Terramortis’ Radio Show Necromanteion, you mentioned that the source of your inspiration came from your last trip with Jawa to Palenque and the Bonampak Ruins. Please could you share with all of us: what were your first impressions of being there, close to the home of ancient Mayan ruins? Artaud: That was indeed a rather intense experience. We have criss-crossed the Yucatan in a rented car even to the remote ruins of Calacmul deep in a seemingly never-ending rain forest. Essentially we had the ruins all to ourselves for a few days. I was impressed how well everything was preserved and was thus able to gather plenty of inspiration while being there. Although I don’t care much for places of power, one cannot help but succumb to the ancestral magic contained in this place. At the end of the trailer to Xibalba you can see a temple at Chichen Itza which I captured on film during this excursion.
Evidently you like to get inspired by your travels. Which locations on the map remain the focus of your journeys yet to come? Artaud: We’re still missing Peru in our collection and of course Sumer. But it remains rather difficult to get into Iraq safely. In the near future we are planning trips to Israel and Jordan. The current political climate allows for such a combination at last. I am most curious and excited at what will await us in Jerusalem, Petra, Masada, Qumran & Co in relation to my search for the archetypal myth, the archetypal religion.
While we are on the subject of travelling; imagine you’d be offered a journey through time; which location and what time would you chose? Artaud: I’d be more interested in the Mayan day of creation 22.214.171.124.0.! It is supposed to have taken place on 11th August 3117BC and corresponds rather neatly with the biblical, Egyptian and Sumerian creation dates.
On „Infinite Visions“ we can hear the planet Nibiru. How does one approach such a thing like intonating an unknown planet? Where does the inspiration come from and is the intonation purely intuitive or is it based on concrete ideas about this planet? It almost sounds a bit like Pink Floyd, or? Artaud: That’s kind of true; but quite unintentional nonetheless. And of course, music always develops on an intuitive level. And such intuition ought to be nourished with visual and selected impressions.
In various ancient traditions the lore tells of a return of the Gods. When do you think this might happen? What could be the reason for such a return? Does God perhaps just want to see what his creation is getting up to? Artaud: Wouldn’t you want to check up on your kids every now and then? For me tha’s just a logical process if one wishes to pursue this particular theory.
So where do the Gods come from? Your last album mentioned Nibiru. Does this imply that someone from/with Nibiru is destined to pay us a visit any time soon? 2012? Artaud: Wouldn’t that be intriguing? Though I fear the Americans would be more likely to shoot down our visitor before he even gets here. It is true to say though that according to Sumerian lore such a return has been calculated for a comparable schedule.
I assume the ancient sumerian/babylonian stele on the fourth page of the booklet depicts Nibiru? Artaud: Yes.
The global Goth scene called for a change and that their true talents were put forward and promoted, tired of empty posturing. The third wave is here and it is a global cultural phenomenon in spite of those who want this style to suffocate by a few hands who treat Goth as a family heirloom. The referents continue to create and Xibalba is an example of that. And the goth rock is considered to be a movement as encompassing as any other, because it is in the DNA of rock as a well-defined component in its own right. In this context it seems that you have conceived Xibalba III in full awareness thereof. It was a seminal work for the revival of the Gothic. Is this so? Artaud: By and large I don’t indulge in the Goth Scene. I have always considered myself my own man, separate from any particular grouping. More or less what you might call a maverick. Of course I cannot distance myself from it altogether as many of my musical preferences are shared by those who belong to this particular scene. Naturally, I am aware that many Nuns’ devotees dwell in the Goth scene and thus we have a connection by default. But it holds no significance let alone importance to me. Nevertheless I am delighted that this particular genre experiences a kind of revival!
In my eyes you are a true visionary! Your passion creates so many wonderful things, not just music! You have recently founded Solar Lodge, your own label. And you also indicated that Solar Lodge is due to sign a few Goth Rock Bands! What can you reveal about that? Artaud: Thanks! Nothing yet, but what I can say for now is Solar Lodge will be the future home of truly the best Real Goth bands worldwide. Everything is underway and from January onwards we will reveal the first bands. All in all we start with 5 bands, all well known, some in cooperation with Solar Lodge, some directly under the flag of the label. I am confident to be giving a good home for the bands.
The NUNHOOD GATHERING is due to take place on 29.09.2012 in Berlin’s K17! What exactly can we expect? Will there be a Meet & Greet with you, Jawa and Jon? Artaud: There will be an aftershowparty. And I think we will be there too. What can we expect? Well, the Nuns of course, Whispers In The Shadow. Further we have the Austrian mentalist Thomas Thalhammer and of course the DJ of all Djs, Mr Oskar Terramortis who will perform his Necromanteion Radio show live after the bands have finished their sets. So, don’t miss it guys!
Do you think you’re going to keep on working so much? What are your projects for the next Nuns’ releases? Artaud: (laughs) Obviously I really like to be productive. In March there will be another EP called “Genesis Revealed” followed by several concerts all over Europe. For more information please visit www.MercifulNuns.com.
A few weeks ago, during a „Communion“ you revealed that you are always on the search for the core of all things. And in “Dark Trails” you sing: “We are searching for the truth”. I am excited at the prospect of where your search will continue to take us and look forward to accompany you on the journey. Thank you for this interview! Artaud: My thanks to you!
The Guru (Lodge Argentinia), Armide (Lodge France), Nay (Lodge Mexico)