MACHINE MUSIC'S ALBUMS OF THE DECADE: AN INTERVIEW WITH LINGUA IGNOTA
[This is the NINTH installment of the Albums of the Decade series of interviews. For the rest of the series go HERE.]
Artist: LINGUA IGNOTA
Label: Profound Lore
Favorite Song: "Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow"
The Bare Bones: CALIGULA is the second full length by American songwriter, performance artist, and noise demon LINGUA IGNOTA, AKA Kristin Hayter. Her debut, ALL BITCHES DIE, which came out independently in 2017 and was re-released by Profound Lore last year, dealt directly with her experiences of abuse, channeling anger, fragility, and Biblical wrath to fashion her self-styled "survivor anthems."
The Beating Heart: This is that rare moment in this series where instead of thinking of the past I have chosen to speak of the present, and some would say the future. CALIGULA is everything LINGUA IGNOTA promised in her previous album, only realized to the tenth degree. It is, in the simplest terms possible, the demented, moving, hateful, empathetic, and altogether beautiful collage of darkness and light that marks any great work of art. Like a death-metal version of a stained glass window, CALIGULA, with its harrowing peaks and crushing lows, allows just enough light and beauty into our space for us to witness the absolute horror that is life under the tyranny of pain and violence. And like that window it is never any one thing at any one time, never just beautiful or just frightening or angry, but all, impossibly at the same time. It is the album of the present because CALIGULA is the music of the present. But it is the album of the future because CALIGULA, through the dispersed unity of its 11 songs, is the fierce, emotional, and artful battle cry of the music of the future.
In honor of CALIGULA's inclusion into this series I engaged in a lengthy and fascinating (if I may say so) conversation with LINGUA IGNOTA. A conversation about pain and art, about the ecstatic and the traumatic, and about a way into and out of violence. But before we get to the interview itself I'd like to just say that if any of what you're seeing here appeals to you then perhaps you may consider joining our super-busy Facebook page, our brand new Instagram account, follow our Spotify playlist madness, or even, dare I say, support us on Patreon. But, without further ado, let's get to where everyone actually wants to go. Enjoy.
Do you remember a moment when you were younger, maybe even a child, when you were just hit by music? You listened to a song, an album saw artwork for an album, whatever it was that made you say “what the fuck was that? I want more of that.
Yeah, I can actually remember an exact moment that was really something else for me. It was in high school, I think I was around 16 years old, and I was listening to – I had made a mix CD that had all kinds of different stuff on it, some metal stuff, some industrial stuff, some classical, some old folk, whatever. And it got to some piece by Debussy, “String Quartet in G Minor,” the second movement, I think. And there’s this one part in that movement that has two strings that move in tandem in a rising melody, and then they drop back down again, and the intervals he uses…. In that particular moment I as walking to class and it fucked me up so bad that I just sat down in the middle of the sidewalk, literally dropped to the floor and sat there and just so overcome by the way these sounds worked on my body and my brain. That’s one that I’ll always remember.
So, just to be sure – the part that made you drop to the ground was the rising melody part or the dropping part? Or the two together?
It was kind of the two together, the way that this line worked like an arc that rose and then fell again. It still crushes me every time I hear it.
Obviously things that happen to us when we’re younger I guess we’re just kind of hit by it, and it’s only later, especially if you’re an obsessive person like myself, by treating it like a riddle you keep asking what was it about that moment that made me react the way I did. So, do you have a different perspective on what that was? Or is it more like a mystical experience?
I think that in context with the rest of that piece of music that the rest of it does something different or is mostly at this… Sometimes I don’t talk about music in a super theoretical way, I talk about it in a very strange imagistic way, so I apologize.
No, no that’s way better.
But everything else about that piece is on a different level, a mid-to-low level, and it’s fairly static. And then there’s that one part, the one that I mentioned, where there’s this arc that seems to me to be very ecstatic and that comes out of nowhere, and the intervals in the line are super close and very chromatic and so it has this eerie almost eldritch sound to it. I think that’s what worked on me, if I try to think about it in a logical way. It was just a masterful, weird moment that came out of nowhere in the piece.
Did this take place in an age where you were already studying music or making music?
I was definitely studying music at this point. I’ve been taking voice lessons and classical piano lessons for about six years at that time. And I was into dark music as well, so I was listening to a lot of classical music and a lot of alternative music. And also making it.
If I may jump ahead – I’m going to jump all over, sorry.
But speaking as someone who has never been a musician of any kind, but more specifically a noise-oriented musician, it makes me wonder whether that’s the type of music you just immediately pick up when studying music or is that harsh sound something you work your way into? Because I assume that if you’re taking classical voice and piano then the immediate music you’re being exposed to isn’t very harsh. Is that right?
Yeah, absolutely. The arrival at noise and the more extreme sounds of heavy music, for me, was kind of a separate thing from the classical training. None of my classical instructors were teaching me anything that….even not the kind of nether-regions of classical music, where stuff is more abrasive or more bizarre or eccentric. We were definitely working on the typical repertoire. I think that for most people who start out in alternative music or get into alternative music at some point noise is kind of like the end, something like the endgame. I feel like noise, harsh noise in particular, is the end of what music can be. It’s just total deconstruction of sound, it just obliterates the sound source into abstraction and nothingness. So I think it’s definitely something that, for most people, it’s a journey to get there.
I had a question about that. This idea that noise is the end, that kind of assumes a linear progression of heavy, right? Someone over-enthusiastically strummed his guitar and his speaker fuzzed, and he went “Oh, that’s interesting,” and then someone else made a distortion pedal and went “Oh, that’s interesting,” and you get into this gradual inflation and obviously compression of these chaotic sounds until you reach the point where someone presses a pedal and all hell breaks loose and that’s the end of that progression. But if you treat it like a collage then noise is just a kind of color. As if someone gave you the opportunity at a certain point of the song, to obliterate the song. That seems to me a big part of what makes, and I’m going to use a horrible phrase, of what makes your music work, that there’s this color that’s like a void, an energy-sucking void, that you can just put in there, next to the beautiful voice, and anything else you want to juxtapose it with.
And I wonder, is that how you think of writing songs, throwing stuff together?
I have a very kind of deconstructed approach to making music, I don’t really think of it in terms of “Here’s a song that I’m going to write” or “I want to make a noise ballade.” Like you said, it’s very collagist, it’s ultra fragmented, and I take all these little elements from other places – particularly from noise, I really like that aspect of it that I mentioned that it’s the end or that there’s nothing and everything within it. And so I will take elements of that and I will put it in my stuff and juxtapose it with something that is traditional, or that is aligned with something more accessible in music as a way to create this weird destabilizing environment for the listener. That’s kind of the approach – to deconstruct everything and take conceits or tropes or that I see something that happens in a genre or sub-genre of music and I say “Oh, I like what that does and I want to use it in my music” [laughs].
You want to borrow that feeling, I guess.
It seems to me that listening to your music involves a very immediate emotional response, and I have no idea why that is. That description you just gave to your reaction to the Debussy on your way to class, that was me about a week ago. I was really just trying to go about my business, I was just trying to go to a coffee shop and be the cliche dude who writes at a coffee shop, I was really trying to just do that.
And I took the files and haphazardly put them into my player and said to myself “This will be the music that I work with.” And a few minutes into the first song my glasses are on my head and my hands were on my forehead. No, my one hand was on my forehead. And I think that if you had looked at me in that moment I looked like someone who had just heard horrible news. Like someone had just called me to say someone I loved had died. But in a great way.
And I held that pose for the entirety of the album, in a weird form of disbelief.
Wow, thank you.
Thank you! That strange description was supposed to have a question at the end of it. Listening to your music, and reading what you have to say about your music, it seems to me that you’re part of a tradition. And I know you’ve already identified significant people in that tradition, like Hildegard of Bingen. And the things that come to my mind are people like Marina Abramoivc and radical body art on one hand…
Oh thank you.
And people like Hilda Doolittle on the other, and the Oracle at Delphi. And that’s where I’d like to begin my attempt at a question.
Because the Oracle at Delphi sat alone and people would come to her for knowledge. But it wouldn’t be the kind of knowledge you can be taught. And you would go into that room, and she would speak to you in a way that it would be impossible for you to make any kind of sense out of it, just this ecstatic moment. And I think it was understood that she was interpreting the way the wind moved through the laurel leaves.
So she was listening and speaking for something, and those coming in, I would assume mostly men, would come for knowledge and come away having had that experience but not completely understanding it. And so they would go out of that room kind of fucked up, much as I was in that coffee shop
And they would be a priest that would attempt to translate her words. But kind of like a college professor, he would attempt to give form to something that seems to convey a deep form of knowledge, without actually having any idea what that knowledge is. So all this huge paragraph I just said and that I will later have to transliterate and that I hate myself for…
Is to say that there is a tradition, of sorts, of fragmented, seemingly feminine, or not-male, in which chaotic, fragmented information is clumped together for you to experience, and that chaos persists to an extent after the performance as well. Do you feel that some of that speaks to what you’re trying to achieve with your music? Creating a language out of disparate parts?
I do. That’s a really really astute and salient and very intelligent reading. I do kind of agree with you that there is something intrinsically feminine about oracular or ecstatic experience. Even a lot of the things we hear about demonic possession mostly relate to women. And so I do think that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to create some other experience out of all of these disparate sources, kind of creating my own language from a bunch of different other languages.
I mentioned Marina Abramovic and she may take her performance to extremes but she still I think could be said to be a part of the performing arts. And there’s something very theatrical, very performance-artsy, if that’s a word, about your music. Do you take inspirations from these fields? Say, the theatre?
Absolutely. When I think about what I want the mood of the music to convey, or even just thinking generally about the music, I never think of other music that I’d like it to sound like. I do think a lot about say “Oh, I read this text or this poem or I saw this film” or the history of performance art, and Fluxus, and the Vienna Actionists, and Abramovic, Chris Burden and all of that strong history of the body as the locus of expression, and the body as the locus of pain and suffering and therefore the vehicle for salvation. So, yes, definitely, I have a very strong interest in performance arts and avant-garde theatre as well. And language too, because a lot of my background is in writing, so a lot of procedural or experimental writing, all of that stuff is much more influential on the music than any particular contemporary musical genre or thing.
How do you introduce the body into music? I’m just realizing that’s a stupid question, because music is always of the body, but that corporeal aspect isn’t always obvious or highlighted…
That’s definitely true.
…so how do you introduce that?
I think that a large part of that for me is the voice. Before I was doing this project I was really interested in just the voice. Well, maybe not just the voice, but the voice as the central force in a practice that incorporated performance and text and sound. And I was very interested in the technologically mediated voice, particularly the technologically mediated feminine voice and what that meant in cultural history and artistic history. And so for me the voice is the source of all of the work, it’s the voicing body…. How can I articulate this well?
You can articulate it not well, that’s good too.
[Laughs] The voicing body lends a sense of somehow both grounding and taking elsewhere, gives otherness to suffering. And looking at things like some of the stuff we’ve been talking about a little bit lie ecstatic speech, and possessed speech, and extended vocals, which sometimes come out of ecstatic speech or are influenced by ecstatic speech. Like anything, like a scream, vocal fry, or a language that comes from nowhere. All of that stuff can be incorporated into the music. For me the voice is the place where that starts.
I have a certain interest in writing performed after disaster that is an attempt to come to terms with disaster also thematically, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but also poetically or structurally. And specifically I’m interested in what’s called the “index.” So, there’s this dude, he’s been dead for a while, but we like those…
And his name was Charles Peirce, a philosopher or language, nineteenth-century American pragmatist, Catholic. And he divides language into three parts, I’m not going to bore you with the details, but one of those parts is the index. And the index is almost like reality infiltrating language. It’s still part of a symbolic system, it’s still in the game, but the index is that part of speech that reminds us that the game is real. That there’s a real undertow to all this fun and games. And that the most concrete, real thigs to say often come across as obscure. Which is a fancy way of saying that when I say “I was there” in an attempt to convey something is a bit of a failure, because that person doesn’t know who I am or where I was. But take that same sentence and place it under a noisy beat and a beautiful voice and suddenly “I was there” is a very meaningful statement. So that those parts of your sentence that most ground it in reality – “I” and “there” – become the most poetic, because everyone can read their own experience into that. So maybe vocal fry or a scream is kind of the index in singing, where it becomes apparent that a body is there, not a disembodied voice.
That’s really really interesting.
I’m sorry about that.
No, that’s great.
I want to get to that thematic aspect in a moment, which is a very important part of what you do. But before I get there I’d like to say this: You’ve been public about your music is a way of coping or taking vengeance following some really real shit that happened to you. Now, that shit did indeed happen to you, you were there. But at the same time the tradition we’ve been talking about, the oracle, the ecstatic, and your own music is to a large extent, involves a sense of loss of control or identity, as if you’re being possessed and something just appears, and you become that thing’s vessel. So how do manage being a real person in a real place with real feelings and memories and a vessel for something else?
I don’t know. That’s something I contend with and I don’t understand how it works. I think that the way that I have come to understand this, or come to understand how I’m able to make that possible, is by changing the context of the content of the work from being confessional and personal and putting it in context of, say, Biblical allegory. Which maybe also has a little bit to do, or is slightly related to the index you were speaking of. That the context of a thing can give the thing a different meaning, or ground it in reality a little bit. And I think that putting the music in terms of absolutes and in terms of giving it a religious absolute context, as opposed to a graphic or a dramatic retelling of things that happened to me, makes it easier for me to go outside myself and access that space that allows me to become something like a vessel.
So I guess I asked the question wrong. It sounds like you’re saying it would have been impossible for you to speak about experience had it not been through almost through a third-person vessel. That you had to go outside yourself to talk about yourself.
I think so, I think that’s pretty close to it. But you didn’t ask the question wrong at all. But that’s pretty much right. I think! I don’t know!
You don’t know because it’s the process of what you do, and when it happens, it happens and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t?
Yeah. I think that part has been the most difficult for me to understand about my own music or my own artwork, is that I don’t understand exactly how that happens or why that happens. I think it kind of just does.
I’m doing, or did, research on contemporary soldier poetry. I say "did" because I’m not sure I still want to do it. But I did it because I thought I’d be my way of dealing with my own shit. And I spent a lot of time thinking, and that thinking is not something i regret, because it taught me quite a bit. But then I actually wrote my own thing, which wasn’t the academic thing, and discovered that the process was much more different and very informative. Informative in that I quit trying to describe what happened to me personally, because that turned out to be part of the problem – trying to describe is the problem.
Because it brings with it a deep sense of failure of having not been successful in describing. But then I discovered that that’s not necessarily the case because I can always play with it, without worrying about how faithful you are to the story, by staying faithful to the general sentiment, then you can be much more accurate.
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely correct.
And maybe that goes into explaining why it’s difficult to talk about it. The conversation shifts quite drastically from a detailed academic depiction to “Well, that’s just how it happened.”
I totally understand that and agree with that. It’s almost like…. I feel like sometimes the ability to discuss trauma or to talk about trauma is the strange, dark counterpart to the sublime, to the nineteenth-century Romantic sublime. Something so crushing it’s just ineffable. And what you were speaking about, that you wrote about the sentiment instead of writing about your direct experiences and that you could find accuracy within that you couldn’t find when describing your experiences because it’s impossible. Language fails.
That failure has a tendency to becomes toxic, because you’re not only failing at something you’re maybe also succeeding in something else. That the very inability to talk about something gives that something more power than it should. And that by fucking with it, and by not trying to describe you – even that I am now personalizing for no good reason….
I’m trying to deconstruct you and that sucks out your power over me.
So, seeing that we are in agreement that CALIGULA is you fucking with it, and to my eyes successfully, so was there an earlier version of this project? Like a first draft.
Not necessarily, to LINGUA IGNOTA as a whole? Was LINGUA IGNOTA the first attempt to address your abuse? Did you try something else first?
Yes, I think so. For a very long time I worked exclusively in academia. I kind of came out of noise and DIY when I was a teenager in high school, and then I went to art school and I became very invested in doing real research in critical studies and making sure that all of my work had theoretical buttressing behind it. And I worked exclusively in academia in order to address it. First it was my experiences with eating disorders and anorexia, and I wrote poems, that were kind of similar to what I’m doing now, inasmuch as I think that’s how my brain makes work in that I create intricate and elaborate systems and weave things together in bizarre ways. To obfuscate and then make clear, and then obfuscate again.
Were those poems related to the academic context?
They were related to my academic work and I think that my thesis in college was a series of poems on anorexia based on the “Well-Tempered Clavier” by Johann Sebastian Bach. It was this systematic, procedural piece of writing that took elements of the music and then transposed them into text. But it had too much remove. It didn’t do what I needed it to do, it was just kind of a thing that was there and it didn’t approach the viewer or the listener. And I did that for a long time in academia, and there was conflict at times over the work being, say, too confrontational or too violent.
Too confrontational for whom?
For academic, for school. So when I took it out of that context, took it out of academia, is when it became better, I think, not being so caught in those structures of needing to have this scholarly remove to be valid.
Maybe on a more fundamental level its being in an environment that tells you that no statement you make that is supported by the thoughts of others is a valid statement.
And when you have your own feelings, and Immanuel Kant isn’t there when someone is treating you horribly
Then he’s no help to you. Or the idea that in order to even address something you need a something that shares some semantic similarity to “evidence.” That you need proof. And when you write music you don’t need proof. Or when you relate to your experiences in a place that is removed from that force field, and it’s a very strong force field. For me at least it is. I don’t know why. I guess I have personal issues.
Maybe the appeal of authority, maybe a quest for intellectual approval. That if someone with a big stamp would tell my mom I’m smart she’ll leave me alone. Or, perhaps deeper than that, would assure me that I am smart. So the force field is real, it’s rhetorical force is real. So in a way breaking free from that was step one, right? That’s how it sounds like.
Yeah, definitely. It’s absolutely true that the validity of your work in academia is based on reinterpreting the ideas of others who came before you, but also that your work is nothing unless it is approved of or given value by the people around you in the academic sphere. And I remember when I first went to art school…. I went for painting, originally, I was there on a painting scholarship. And one of my first paintings that I put up for critique was just OK. I wasn’t a great painter by any means. And I put something in the composition that I liked. And it got a reasonably good critique from somebody, and then somebody called it out and said “I don’t understand why you put this here, I don’t like it” and then everyone else decided they didn’t like it as well, and I never painted again [laughs]. And the painting was about my experiences, and then to have it be invalidated by academia, I just couldn't do it, I couldn't put the work out there in that way and have people go “No, it’s not good, it’s not valid.” Academia is a very strange tradition, for sure.
But that sounds almost like an extension of the experience itself. That if you go through something that makes you even want to try to express yourself about it, and then someone very clinically takes that apart, it becomes a part of that shitty feeling.
But it’s interesting that you say that academia is a funny tradition because if you do identify yourself in the ecstatic tradition then academia quite explicitly is the tradition that is trying to stop that tradition.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right.
So, fuck it.
Fuck it to bits. I hope the people who aren’t hiring me anyway don’t read this.
Anyway. One of the things that interests me is that your subject matter, your abuse, having survived it, is not a very metal subject matter, for many reasons. Not least of which being that you’re a woman talking about her abuse and metal, by and large, is a very masculine environment. A lot of dudes, a lot of body hair
A lot “the government” or “rotting graves” and some would say, and this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in my adult life listening to metal, complicit in violence also in how casually violence, and violence against women, is a part of the culture. And your project stands out in that. So, I’d like to hear about if you’re at all interested in any kind of interaction with “the scene”? Would it be interesting for you to infiltrate and deconstructe it? And this is obviously in reference to all extreme music, not necessarily metal.
I do see it as a kind of infiltration. The music is not a friendly infiltration, but I think that I think of myself as a person as a friendly infiltration. I think that it’s kind of a complicated relationship that the scene and I have had together at this point. I have a really good community of people around me, like-minded artists who are mostly men who I really care about and I know they really care about me, and they care about my music. But I think that there are also people who don’t want to get it and don’t want to understand it, and who feel personally attacked by the content. And it’s not meant to necessarily specifically just attack someone, it’s meant to change the way people think about themselves in the context of these situations and maybe cause a change of mind.
I often feel that when you speak to someone exclusively out of anger, out of rage then your point can get lost. And so if there’s other things aside from rage, if there’s beauty and compassion and other elements that give humanness or validity to things outside of rage, you might be able to reach people more. And what I’m really hoping for is to change people’s minds about women in music and in the heavy music scene, because there are a lot of really gifted women and a lot of them don’t get a chance. I hope that people can look at the relationship to women in these extreme scenes maybe don’t so quickly dismiss them and also see that there are women who are just as gifted as men. And maybe change some minds as opposed to just riling people up. That’s the position that I’m coming from.
If I may, it seems to me that at least part of the offense people are taking is that there’s a perception in the well-meaning part of the metal scene – I’m not talking about the ill-meaning – but there’s a relatively mainstream idea that metal is a violent fantasy, and that it’s a place to fantasize about being strong, about mutilating bodies, about saying “fuck you” to all the people who may have hurt you. That it’s a fantasy of power that plays around with the idea of power but never, or rarely, acts on it. And so when you come into that space and say you want to change your mind about things, a lot of the offense may come from “But I’m not here for people to change my mind. I’m not here to be told I’m wrong, I’m here to be told I’m right.” And so there’s a certain deflation of the very essence of how certain people view the scene. You’re like the bee who explodes their balloon. And people don’t like that.
[Laughs] Yeah, I think that’s true.
But I wanted to make life a bit harder for you, if I haven’t already made it insufferable until now.
So, there’s a sample in the record from [the Metallica documentary] Some Kind of Monster.
Now, I’m VERY interested in that sample.
And the reason that I’m interested is that I read it, in the context of what it seems you’re doing in the album…. So, let’s say hate is a lucrative business. And let’s say that pretending to be violent is big bucks. That means that you’re incentivized to keep doing that, to keep being hateful. And I’m sure that what Metallica thought was happening in that film was documenting their struggles in trying to record a new album, without realizing, and this is what I feel the sample means in the album, is that this is what you look like when you’ve been selling hate for 20 years.
So, how did that sample make it to the album?
I think there’s a lot of critical self reflection on this record, and critical reflection on the surrounding metal scene and a lot of the hyper-masculine tropes. And so there are a lot of weird little jokes peppered all over the record. And I decided to put Lars in there, and I didn’t know if people would know who that is. Some people don’t yet, and some people are catching on. I think that probably out of all of the samples on the record he’s the most likely to sue me [laughs].
[Laughs] That’s probably right.
Seth, my engineer and co-conspirator on this record , and I, we were talking about Some Kind of Monster, and I’ve seen it of course, and we were talking about watching it. And so we started watching a few clips, and we watched this clip, it was called “Lars Stews in His Anger and Eats a Sandwich or something like that…
And so we watched this clip, and it’s one that I’ve seen a bunch of times, and I just said: “This has to be on the record.” It so perfectly encapsulates some of what you say, incentivizing hatred and “20 years of hatred, now look at it.” And some dingus eating a sandwich really loudly and you can hear him just chewing, doesn't give a shit. And so I put it on the record for to make fun of myself a little bit, and to call upon the metal community a little bit. But then also I put it in as a very strange structural aspect in that song, because that song, “Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow,” is just voice and piano and in my way of thinking it’s a very grating and not particularly beautiful vocal performance. And the lyrics are about how not to be defiled by any earthly thing…
“Heaven is my consolation…”
“Yeah, heaven is my consolation, despair and salvation again,” and then I put at the end of the song, it just comes out of nowhere, because I thought that then people would think that that ruins the song. And I wanted to express how it feels when I play a set and someone is talking through my set, or talking over me.
And I guess the epitome of that person is Lars Ulrich.
[Laughs] Yeah. So I put it there to intentionally fuck up the song, and make people thing “What the fuck is going on? Why is this happening?” and “Ugh, this sucks! Why do this?”
[Laughs] So it has a multi-faceted, layered meaning.
And it works. As a side note, I mean, this who interview has been side notes, and this is a very boring fact about myself that I have turned into an interesting fact for me, I and that is that I am a lifelong, embarrassed fan of the guy famously crying in that movie, Dave Mustaine.
Exactly. And David Mustaine is crying, and has been crying for his entire career, precisely because he was denied of his male fantasy. He was always going to be second best, everyone calls his a loser – I think he describes people calling him out in the street, which is just like so weird. And so he’s trapped against his own will in the space of never being the strong man. And this is why I find him interesting, that because he is trapped there is ultimately makes more interesting art than the presumed “alpha.”
But one of the symbols of that is that crying scene, and from the moment that movie came out, and everyone in my life knows what a huge Megadeth fan I am, I have been trolled using that scene, in a kind of extension of the way he was trolled for not being in Metallica. But now, and here’s the side note, having this conversation with you, I feel validated. Because it shows that he’s the only normal person in that movie. Again, normal against his own wishes, because he’s a dick, but nevermind.
But I wanted to make another less Megadeth-y observation. Wallace Stevens is my favorite poet, and as a thinker he is one of the more articulate vocalizers of what is art in terms of violence. He calls poetry “a violence from within that protects us from a violence without.” And that seems to speak to what you may be trying. As if you’re emitting this energy as a way of pushing something to your edges. And listening to CALIGULA it sounds like, lyrically, each song is a different tactic to how to achieve that.
One, like “Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow, is saying “The world is shit, the body is failing me, my consolation will come after death.” Another would be something like “I Am the Beast” where it seems your anger or your vengeful self is doing the work. And what that creates is a collage, again – there is the collage of each song, and then the collages of all the songs together – which is the experience of finding out a way to live after everything’s that’s happened to you. In another callback to Wallace Stevens, that’s kind of his tactic in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” where he gives you 13 ways of seeing one thing. There is no picture of the one thing, but you gain a kind of mental picture of the one thing if you look at all the images together. So if you look at all these maps of pain, then you gain a mega-statement about pain and living with pain. So, the weird question that comes out of that is: did you notice that? That these different characters are coinhabiting your space at the same time?
Yeah. I was, and I do think about the many ways in which we can represent one thing, and that representation is always going to be incomplete. Yeah, the Wallace Stevens example is really ingenious.
Do you feel like the albums has that effect, that it’s not about just the sum of its parts but a bringing together that results in something like a history of a moment?
Yeah, I think so. In some ways it’s a very empathetic statement in trying to understand all perspectives involved. It’s as if I’m trying to look at myself and look at myself critically, I’m trying to look at my abusers and look at my abusers critically and empathetically, I’m trying to look at abuse of power in different strata and look at that critically and empathetically, and also looking at the scene critically and empathetically, and trying to make sense of any of it, I think. Maybe, I don’t know. I’m kind of feeling like I’m failing to do that with each individual song, and maybe with the album in total…. I don’t know if it can be done.
I think you did. But it goes back to the beginning of our conversation, that there’s a way of transmitting knowledge that isn’t “the statement.”
If you walked into the Temple at Delphi wanting to get a definitive answer about what to do with your life, and you were confronted by this woman saying things that just stun you, there are people that are going to go into that room and come out and say “I’m disappointed, that’s not what I wanted.” But there are, I think, people who will appreciate the experience for what it is and feel cleansed by it. Or uplifted.
Yeah. I would hope so.
I was. I mean, maybe I’m not your target audience, but I was.
[Laughs] Thank you.
Sorry for talking so much. I was afraid that this might be the one I talk too much in, but sorry.
No, no, it’s wonderful. I really appreciate your perspective.
I did want one more thing. There is a sort of danger in this game. And what I mean by that is, think of the facts as they pertain to LINGUA IGNOTA’s rise into prominence. You did whatever art you did before that didn’t connect with you and with an audience. You created a sonically abrasive project that seems to be clicking with people. You get picked up by a metal label, which then re-releases your album. So, we’ve been talking about how the violent aspect of music could be used for less-critically-inclined outlooks on life, and here you are sucked into this vortex of people who like heavy music who are into your music, and being recognized specifically by the metal community. So I guess my question is to what extent you’re afraid that LINGUA IGNOTA will become one more agent – against your own intentions – in that scene?
I do think about that a lot. And I try to be reasonably self critical and try to hold myself accountable regarding the decisions I make and go “Well, this was not a good decision” or “We are possibly going down a dangerous road here,” and I think there’s also that aspect of monetizing or creating a persona out of violence and retribution and out of real experience – that is dangerous and that’s something that I’d like to avoid. Or I want to make sure that creating this music always stays authentic to what it needs to be doing and doesn’t become this weird pageant or acting. And so I think it’s important to be aware of where the music is going and what it’s doing, and aware of what it’s doing for people. And if it’s not having the effect that I intend and people feel that it’s harmful in some way, or if there’s a wave of people who feel it’s harmful, as opposed to certain metal naysayers who don’t like me because I’m a woman in their zone…. That I should be always looking at the choices that I’m making and consider why I am making them. And I think that’s another big part of practice, and has been for a very long time, and it’s always something that I have taught my students in class as well, to always ask yourself and make a choice in your artwork and ask yourself why are you making it. And that way we hopefully weed out inauthentic reasons for making art and prevent bad choices. Although, you know, what is a bad choice, ultimately?
But, that is something that I think about and worry about, things like self exploitation, the extent to which my story is clickbait and will always preface what I do from now on, even if I totally move away from making work about abuse, which I might do. I’m not going to be making work about this, extravagantly violent work, if I don’t feel like I need to. And hopefully the art that I make after this, after I have processed these experiences will be seen as just as valid, even though it’s not as violent or not as dire.