Machine Music's Albums of the Decade: An Interview with Ulver
This is the 17th installment of the Albums of the Decade series of interviews. For the rest of the series go HERE.]
Album: The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Label: House of Mythology
Favorite Song: "So Falls the World"
The Bare Bones: The Assassination of Julius Caesar is the eleventh studio album by shape-shifting, experimental group Ulver, who had begun life as part of the Norwegian black metal scene and has, through the years, gained recognition as one of the most prominent avant-garde, electronic, ambient, and, most recently, synth-pop groups of the last two and a half decades.
The Beating Heart: Ulver is a rare breed, a musical phenomena in constant flux and continuously changing, the artistic vision of which has sent it dancing across genre lines, continuously defying expectations. While often tethered to its past as a black metal band in the mid to late 1990s, Ulver's peer group, I would argue, is less aligned to any one genre, idea, or mood but to the select group of musical artists that have shared it's ambition, longevity, and endless curiosity. Here I have in mind bands like Killing Joke or David Bowie, who had similarly established themselves precisely in the act of never establishing, forever lunging forward. Their most recent chapter, one that has found its foundations in 2011's Wars of The Roses and perhaps perfected in 2017's The Assassination of Julius Caesar, is defined by a focus of the totalizing sound most associated with pop music, an emphasis that has garnered the usual critical acclaim but also an unusual amount of mainstream attention.
On a narrower, perhaps more personal, note, Ulver is one of a select group of bands that have emerged, during the course of this ongoing interview series, as a pillar of what I guess could be loosely defined as the alternative extreme metal scene. That if there are bands that had served as significant influences on the tier of bands I have followed over the last decade or two, Ulver, alongside Neurosis and Emperor, have been named perhaps more than any other band in these interviews. I would go as far as saying that, despite the fact that Ulver, and this is an issue that comes up in this present interview, has not been a black metal band for decades, its influence, especially on the USBM scene, is staggering. One prominent example is this Panopticon interview, but there are a few more that have yet to be published that make similar claims.
As always, before proceeding to my conversation with Ulver founder Kristoffer Rygg I would like to encourage any who are interested to read the rest of this ongoing project, which will probably be running until the end of the year (and probably spilling into the beginning of 2020), with a lot more exciting conversations to be published. You can follow us on any one of our social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Spotify) and also, if so inclined, support us on Patreon. My aim has been to use whatever support we can get to produce interviews like these, focusing on the art and life of that art, as well as other projects supporting our local scene, such as the newly launched music compilation MILIM KASHOT VOL. 1 of amazing local metal, hardcore, and noise. Thank you all for being here.
So, I found it very difficult to prepare for this interview, I'll be honest with you.
Because I feel personally connected with the specific work of art in question, and that sometimes is a roadblock in conversations. But also it's because very enticing to get into the whole “multifaceted face of Ulver” thing, which I assume you’re tired of at this point, but which is still very interesting for me, for my own reasons. But I kind of want to not bore you with it.
So, I've employed two tactics to deal with this. One is that I'm going to try to talk about time with you.
About time, OK.
In the abstract and maybe seemingly unrelated to the album, but I feel very related to the album and also related to Ulver’s artistic concerns in general. And I'll also disclose that the only sane way I found to prepare for this interview was to watch a bunch David Bowie interviews.
All right, there are a couple of special ones out there.
Yeah, he׳s a special guy.
He is a special guy.
But in an attempt to begin in a normal fashion, I'll ask you what I always ask as a kind of introductory question which is: Do you remember a moment in your life, I guess maybe as a younger person, where you were just hit by a song, or an album, or, you know, album imagery in a way that changed the way you thought about music?
Yeah, I know what you mean, and I have experienced this many times but always when confronted with it it's impossible to call back on a specific one, for some reason.
Do you remember one time, maybe as a child, that you were fascinated by a song?
I guess I was a child it would have to be something like Kiss, maybe Destroyer as a place where at least the imagery, the theatrical aspect of it at that time, overtook me, so to speak.
You mean just watching them on TV or…
Just the cover itself. The guys and the paint and the weird costumes just hovering above the mountain or whatever that is they're standing on, I can't remember anymore. So, that's one [example] that comes to mind. Not so much musically, really. But we actually talked about another album in the studio yesterday, which was Scott Walker's Tilt. Which also made a very big impression, and we were really, really listening to that “Farmer in the City” track yesterday. And I got that same almost uncomfortable feeling, it's tremendously beautiful, but also tremendously sad. And that's the sort of sense of loss or devastation or something to it, you know? This solemn weight that's kind of disturbing almost. So that's a more recent one. Well, I did listen to that album when it came out in 1995, so it's a long time ago. So, you have two very different examples.
Do you conceive Scott walker to be a theatrical artist as well? I mean, obviously, not in the same way the Kiss are.
No, they’re very, very different. But I do think that, well maybe theatrical is not the best word, but there are definitely antics there and a sort of rebelliousness as well, against a former self, against the perception of what music is considered sophisticated, or things like that, concerns which are vain in their own way, I would say.
You mean the vanity of what he's deconstructing or the vanity of his own exercise?
His own work. Yeah, there's vanity there, at least I perceive it, to some extent. And that doesn't really discredit the work, rather the opposite, I would say.
So what why would it be the opposite?
Because you need vanity and pride in your work, I think it has to be there. I guess the sort of popular perception is that art should be free of that, in a way, but it never is. You learn that when you get close to most artists [laughs].
So this, this kind of mildly touches on some of the things I'd like to talk about. And one of them is this idea that art is a tool of authenticity. There is that school, and some some genres emphasize that more, the idea that the artist is being authentic.
Yeah, that's a whole school in itself, but often the paradox is that in that search for “the naked truth,” or whatever you want to call it, it becomes in itself an almost religious obsessional thing.
Like a fetish.
Yeah, exactly. And a sort of vanity project, if you will.
So you're saying that, maybe combining these two issues together, that, even using the examples you just gave of things you liked as a younger person, or maybe later on…
And as a slightly older person, yeah.
That you found yourself drawn to art that was honest about its own vanity, if you want to say it that way.
I wouldn't go as far as…. I hope this interview doesn’t paint Scott Walker as this huge vanity project, it was just something that came to mind, you know, but just on opposite sides of the perceived purpose of the creation.
Maybe I misspoke. But my point was that not that he's vain, but that he's….
He’s aware of himself, maybe that’s a way to put it, and I would say most good artists are, self involved. You have to be.
But that seems like paradox, right? Being self involved, and being maybe vain, we’ll call it “vain” for the sake of argument. But at the same time, knowing that that's what you're doing. Because a lot of times people think of vain people or of self involved people as people who are not self reflexive. That they're the center of the universe, and they don't care about anyone but themselves and thus they are not critical of themselves. But that's not what you're describing, you're describing someone who….
I’m talking about this in relation to creating art, and being aware of the commercial aspect of it. I mean, if you don't want to move people with your art you can just make it for yourself, ultimately, if you take this to its furthest point. So for there to be art in the public sphere there has to be a commercial aspect to it. It doesn’t have to be the reason why you're doing, obviously, but it's part of it. I think most musicians or painters, or writers are aware of this. And actually, I don't think it's that interesting, it’s just something we started talking about.
I mean, it is slightly interesting to me, because, say if you take an example of a band like Kiss. One would not argue that Kiss was an attempt at the authentic expression of Paul Stanley's emotions. That Paul Stanley was not trying to sell a naked, unadorned version of himself. He was in fact trying to sell almost the opposite of that. There was makeup, there were the get ups, there was the product they were selling, like the action figures. So there was the commercial aspect of that that was very present.
Exactly. And so in that way, Scott Walker is very different, because he was never that guy. But he did emphasize artifice, if you want to call it that way, meaning that whatever it is that he's making art through, or the reason he's making art for, it's obvious to the listener that this is not a “naked” Scott Walker. It was Scott Walker using tools, some of them quite blunt, in order to make you feel something.
I would say it's a different kind of big.
Yeah, exactly. Great. Different kind of big, that's where I was going with this. And so this leads me to maybe mention The Assassination of Julius Caesar for the first first time, because Assassination is big.
It's also a different kind of big for Ulver, yes.
Yeah, a different kind of big almost objectively, because you know, when you listen to it, the production in it, the sounds, it sounds like a larger than life thing. There was no attempt again, to be naked. This is not Kristoffer Rigg saying “This is me, my emotions and an acoustic guitar.” So there is that bigness to it. But that bigness is even enhanced by the fact that it's you doing it. It's not like Ulver over had a lack of interest in big sounds in the past, and we can get to that. But this is a different kind of big.
I agree, I agree. You’re quite right in pointing out that we’ve never shied away from the big things. But we have also done some quite exposed and vulnerable things. I'm thinking in particular of the things we did as young men. Kveldssanger, for example, it's very exposed. And there's a time aspect as well, that, you know, a lot of time passes, and you react to you own previous exposure, in a way, personally. I think, going back to Scott Walker, I that's what the, let's call it his later or his second career points at. It's a sort of withdrawal into something else, or a withdrawal from a former self and away.
So, being a person who has made music now for quite a while….. So I always find that asking musicians or artists in general about their art is always a boring thing. Because they don't have answers.
Yes, and sometimes it takes away from the work.
Yeah, because you don't want to dig there. You want the people to appreciate the thing as a whole, maybe?
We often tend to think of it as our work is done. So in a way interviews are a necessary evil, I suppose. Because it's not something I particularly enjoy. Not this, this is a good talk. But you get what I’m saying.
But what I meant by what I was getting at, is that when you've made music for as long as you have, and let's assume that all these musical moments were discrete aesthetic expressions of whatever it is that you wanted to do in that moment. No reason that you know of, influence and or whatever. You did what want it to do and it's done.
But 25 years of doing that, or longer, gives you the ability to look back and start tracing some patterns.
And so I be interested in asking you, when you had moments of exposure, of exposing yourself, what was your subsequent artistic reaction?
I’m not sure I get your meaning.
So, when you describe moments that you identify as moments that were exposed, right? Not as big, right?
Exposed in the human sense, right?
So, you could argue, more flawed?
In the sense, as you used specifically, you know, the acoustic guitar as analog to sincere human emotion? Which I don't agree with, I have to say.
I think it's a cultural thing. It's not my opinion.
Okay. Okay, then we're on the same page. Yeah
I don't think that’s what it does.
But you’re right, that's a cultural thing. It's the perception that that's more true or more, you know, in the soil, for some reason, you know, that's ingrained in us. But it can be equally deceptive.
It could actually be more deceptive.
Sometimes that too.
So, when you partook, say, in the kind of music that you would experience as being more exposed or flawed. And then you went through a process of reacting to what you just accomplished.
Which we often do, for some reason [laughs].
So what would one such reaction be? I mean, being embarrassed that you did that or…
I think from a very sort of human emotional register scale, it's just being being very fed up. That’s usually not only my feeling but in my band, it's usually the feeling when you've been banging on about something for a year or more, it's just the last place you want to be afterwards. So I guess that to some extent explains the multifacetedness of Ulver, if you will.
So you do something, you're fed up with it, and you want to do something else. But still, if I may, if you're doing what you're doing, and I'm going to use a word that I shouldn't be using. But if you're doing what you're doing well, and I don't mean necessarily doing the music well, but the process well, that you are sensitive to what is interesting to you and go through with it, and then you're fed up with it and try to rethink what you want to do. So when that process goes well there are things you learn along the way. So even though you're you're fed up with that project, for whatever it is that it tried to express, there may be a grain in there that you find interesting, maybe even aesthetically, that you will be going on and use even in the very different project that comes next. You know what I'm saying?
Yeah, but of course. There’s blood there, it's a living thing. And the blood will flow. Regardless of how you want it to flow, you know? So yeah, as you said, there will be things ingrained or things seep on along the river that are beyond our control, our determination to do something. And that's actually at the heart of what's most interesting, most mystical about music and its creation. That undefinable something.
So I am to assume, then, that Assassination was a kind of reaction to something or desire to move away from something. And I guess my question would be from what? I'm not asking you about why you wrote Assassination the way you did, I’m kind of asking the negative, what didn't you want to write when you were writing Assassination?
I'm not so sure there was a strict revolt there, in the sense that there wasn't anything we were vehemently against, or fed up with, or whatever. But obviously, as the album itself shows, there was an explicit drive there to be almost more musically outgoing, I would say. And I tend to distinguish between the lyrical content and the musical. Because it's part of two different processes. And they don't always have to perfectly marry in my opinion. So, yeah, musically speaking.
So when you say outgoing, you mean? I mean, I hate the word, but, accessible? Meaning that more people….
I actually don't hate the word. I think it's, you know, after
No, I hate it, because it's gotten a bad rap, I guess.
Right. Yeah, that's true. But, but it’s kind of funny because it becomes a sort of experiment in itself. When for years and years you've done many sort of mood pieces, it's interesting to see how, if you approach things a bit differently, it'll just hit a lot broader, or wider. And I guess, to some extent, it can be quite motivational, when something is successful. It gives you more resources, in a way, to paint with even bigger brush strokes. But for the most part there's no black-and-white, at least not from where I'm sitting, it doesn't have to mean, I guess I get the feeling that we're on the same page, but it doesn't have to mean that it doesn’t have artistic value.
Yeah I don’t think that I think…. Wow, what a great sentence, one for the ages.
But I don’t think that I think that you were writing Assassination as a kind of Machiavellian attempt to take over the pop industry, right? That it isn’t this malicious attempt of saying “I'll show them I can write pop music if I feel like it and get rich” right?
I think that would be far too much of a simple motivation. I think you’d grow tired before you saw the finished product if that was your only reason to be doing something. I mean, we are punk rockers, but we're not that punk rock [Laughs]. But, you have to love it. You have to love what you do. I think that's because even if you're making an ambient mood piece, or a really well-produced pop record, it's going to take time, if you care about it, you want to make something solid. So, yeah.
I actually think Assassination is artistically the most radical thing that Ulver has ever done.
I’m inclined to almost agree with you.
Yeah. I mean, I tend to exaggerate. So we can agree on the "almost." But it’s because, and this is where the thing about time comes in, and this may be completely strange and out of sorts, but you know, we only live once.
It seems that Ulver now, and maybe this has been an ongoing concern for you, I don't know since when, perhaps since the beginning, has been resisting this idea of what we've been calling authenticity. Authenticity, and the acoustic guitar and cultural language that guitar speaks to, has to do, for me, and I think not only for me with a kind of story. And that story is of a certain linearity, right. So there was a past, one that we can access through history and through legend. And there is a present that is removed from that past. And there's a future toward which we progress. And so that that kind of basic story to me has a lot to do with the story of authenticity. And I don't think that is your story. And I think the Assassination is a radical piece of art. Because in it time doesn't work that way. Time is everywhere. Right?
Well, that's very true. It's a sort of associative journey through history.
Right, and if you're associatively journeying through history, then you're essentially subverting the authentic, you're subverting the idea of the authentic time, right?
Yeah, I get what you're saying, and it's actually quite interesting. You're definitely the first guy to bring these kind of issues up in an interview. It's a sort of, I'm not sure if I'm getting you as I should, but I guess you're hinting at this sort of personal removal of the self.
Yes. To an extent, yeah.
And I agree. I think that Ulver has always been a bit about that. We're chasing what we sometimes used to refer to as "potent images." And I’m not talking lyrically. And not so much, well, only occasionally using our own life story as a source, of sorts. That's very interesting. I hadn’t really thought about it before.
But that's what makes Assassination so interesting to me, because Assassination seems to be the most extreme, well maybe not the most extreme, I don't want to ahead of myself, but another version of the extreme attempt to remove the self. And in a way, and this ties into what we said about Kiss before, almost kind of flaunting it. One of the reasons I’ve been reading Bowie interviews before this interview, is because Bowie got a lot of shit for turning kind of synth pop in the 80s.
Yeah, he got a lot of shit many times.
Yeah, that’s a fairly accurate assessment. And one of the reasons he got shit for it was, I think, that people, even though they knew Ziggy Stardust was an act. Everyone knew….
In some ways Ziggy Stardust was the direct predecessor of Kiss.
Yeah and amazingly, it was explicitly an act, no one watching or listening to Ziggy Stardust was thinking they were listening to an actual alien. So they knew it was a performance. And yet still, when he moved into that poppy sound, people felt betrayed. Because it was the wrong kind of act.
And I think David Bowie, the genius that he was, kind of knew what he was doing with that, it was his way of saying, as an artist, “I get to choose my act.”
Exactly. As simple as that, really.
"You don't get to choose my act for me."
Very true. That’s the way with me.
Because of the times you were accused of….
Yeah, because we still struggle to this day with problems directly relating to the fact that we made two metal albums in the 90s.
Just music business problems. It’s actually more fascinating than it is disturbing to me, but it’s still very, very curious. Yeah, a sort of very strange trajectory. It’s just curious, this public perception that to this day insists on Ulver being something that we haven't been for a long, long time. Which is, broadly speaking, a metal band [laughs]. Which is just absolutely ridiculous. But still, that's the perception out there. We're still on the metal shelves. We're still being perceived as metal guys who are somewhat experimental or doing something, protesting. But that fundamentally we're metal dudes. That's the going rate out there. To me it’s just very strange, that’s why I keep using the word “curious.”
It happens to be something that I am personally very interested in, and that I've, you know, spend the last few years thinking about. And so I think I have something of an answer, not a complete answer, but a partial answer. And it has to do with violence. I think people associated the Norwegian scene with violence, not just violence, you know, on the level that sometimes was very real, but also on an aesthetic level, that authenticity and violence have something to do with one another. That if someone is someone being violent, then he is being his authentic self.
That’s a very interesting take, I would say.
And so if Ulver was metal at first and part of that scene, then I think a lot of people look back at the early 90s and metal in general, and specifically in the Norwegian scene, as being a very true place.
That’s the perception, yes, that it was all authentic, that was the key world of our whole culture.
And so and because it was perceived as being that authentic place, the fact that you being a part of that scene, then upended and did Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, or Shadows of the Sun, both cases of art reflecting on itself as art, meaning that they're not interested in authenticity at all, that pissed a lot of people off, because suddenly you're being fake. Whereas before you're real.
I would counter that, though, by saying that Shadows actually is probably the one the most authentic thing we ever did.
Why? Because it is.
What I mean is that when you say “authentic,” what kind of you mean?
By way of emotion and personal presence in sound and word.
Yeah, I mean, I'm not arguing with that. Obviously, I think it's a beautiful album….
But, interestingly if you take your position a bit further, this sort of black metal aesthetic and the public perception of that being something very true, I would say that Shadows, that’s the album where all this black metal, shall we call it “feeling,” that’s where it's it actually brought to fruition. And also, in doing so, kind of shuts the door on it on Ulver’s part, because we couldn't really go any more personal or darker than that album. And we haven't really been able to. Neither before or after,
I would say that I can see that as being the case, I'm not arguing, obviously, the Shadows of the Sun was a fake album. But I do think that part of the anger that you were talking about that you are so curious about, over Ulver’s shift from the black metal aesthetic, that might explain the backlash.
I wouldn't say it's such a backlash, though, I would say that's slightly exaggerated. We haven’t really gotten a lot of problems from metalheads, rather the contrary, we still get a lot of love. But ironically, that's the problem too, because that shuts the door to the rest of the world, you know, because to the rest of the world we are still a metal band.
So I guess what that requires me altering my hypothesis, that it's not that the reason for the so-called anger is an aesthetic shift but that the reason for the fixation of you as a metal band may have to do with the fact that while you were a metal band, people perceived that to be your true self, people may have perceived that to be an authentic experience.
That might be true. Obviously I'm in no position to answer [laughs].
No. But it does lead us back to what I said before, about Assassination being a radical moment in your career, because Assassination is almost a statement about time, like we said before, right? That you can associatively look at all these time periods, and feel like you can talk about any two of them that you feel talking about, without obligation to chronology or to history. That one moment reminds you of another, and thus you’d like to speak of them together.
We’re only obligated to get to see the narratives within the narratives, so to speak, that these things have to talk to each other. That’s our inspiration. And it has kind of become a discipline in itself, which takes quite a lot of time, actually, and consideration.
So you're talking about what, what becomes a discipline, this idea of bringing different ideas together?
To create a story out of things that seemingly don't belong together in time or history. It’s usually that Jørn and I we write these things together. It's something that's developed over quite a long time, and that was maybe particularly successful, I would argue, on Caesar, the way this imagery so strangely aligned.
I would like to add that the aesthetic of the album itself, the fact that it has this shimmering, beautiful sheen to the music only drives that point further. Because if it is a discipline to take different ideas that don't fit together, and talk to them and try to make them into a story, then if you make that into an accessible, beautiful story, then that seems to be the top of that kind of achievement.
And at the same time, by taking these associative stories, and making them into a different type of work of art, that is almost the ultimate rebellion against the self in art. Because what your mind is doing it just putting things together, it's not asking questions about why it's not giving them reasons.
Exactly. It's a kind of collage, or I guess bricolage. Is that right sword?
I wouldn't know the right word for that. But yes, it sounds like a good word. But, yes it is a collage. And collage is a very temporally interesting thing. Because it changes time from a flowing river into an object that you can look at. I mean, the time that you created in the album.
Yeah, exactly. That’s a good image.
It might seem that what we're talking about is a very postmodern thing, right? Taking time apart, time travel, all these things. But it's actually been a feature of literature and art since the beginning. And so one of the examples I like is in Homer's Iliad, which is really just a description of a very long battle. There are moments where someone is being killed, for instance. And so and then there was a very particular very graphic depiction of how the spear pierces him in the eye, and what his armor sounds when he falls to the floor, and all these very graphic depictions. And suddenly, the narrative goes to his family, like miles away in Greece, and to his father, who does not yet know his son was killed, and how his sad he will be when he finds out, because it's his only son, who, who he loved so much. And then suddenly, you know, a line later, someone else gets a spear in the eye and the action goes on. And so this idea that contemporaneous things go together beautifully to create, I think in this case, and maybe also in Assassination, there's a kind of melancholy.
Yeah, I agree. And it’s beautiful.
Yeah. But it's also a sad, kind of beautiful.
Like all beauty, ultimately. We construct in order to escape what we know, in a way. Otherwise there wouldn't be a reason to get up in the morning. We create things to escape this earth, basically. Create these beautiful moments frozen in time, or where an instance can be spilled out over pages of narrative.
So, when contextualized by your previous albums and your career and your development as an artist, Assassination stands as the kind of a moment where time collapses and everything and the only thing that matters is what's beautiful.
Yeah, big words [laughs]. I don’t know how to react to that.
Thank you, maybe? [laughs]
But I think that's, that's part of the sense of Assassination as s tragedy. Because all these sad things that keep coming up in the album, either from the past or the present, or the distant past or the not so distant past. They're all these sad stories that keep repeating in a very beautiful shell of music. Which gives out the sense of tragedy, right? That something is beautiful. I think you called it somewhere “Gothic pop” or something that, but I think that's where the sad part comes from.
Yeah, I mean, yeah. It's hard to respond to this, you know, but I just like listening to you [laughs].
Sorry, man [laughs] I go on too much. Actually, I wanted, before I move on to the second issue, I wanted to read you a Bowie quote….
For me, what's beautiful about this, just about listening to it, is exactly to go back to the start [of the interview]. Our work is done, and what's beautiful is what's happening in your head through being exposed to it. Good or bad, it's still interesting. But our work is done, we are already somewhere else.
Yeah, completely. And I wouldn’t want to pierce that or deconstruct that.
I’m not saying that you are, I’m just trying to explain why I can’t really respond [laughs].
I respect that completely. But before I move on, I wanted to read you a Bowie quote that I highlighted for myself. And I think is relevant. And this is a quote from an interview given in ‘99. Which is geographically important, because in ‘99, that's around the time boy begins to be respected as an artist again.
This is during Heathen?
Just before Heathen, yeah.
When he when he reverts to his acoustic guitar. And the suit.
Yeah, the suit is very important. But I think maybe we even I mean, you could look at it cynically, but I think even un-cynically people had enough of Bowie for enough time to kind of get that this guy is talented enough to do many different things, and kind of let go the disappointment of him to changing all the time. So I think it may have been a time in his career where people were like, okay, so it's just that he's a different kind of artist, not just….
I think one important thing about Bowie is that he was a collector and a fan of art himself, I guess, hugely so…. To some extent I see us as being the same. Not to compare ourselves, but a similar kind of position there.
You mean collectors of others’ art of that your art is a collection?
A collector of impressions from the world that then puts it back into what you do, processes it. Has fascinations talk to each other, you know? As we’ve said.
Completely, and the ability to revisit them, right? Because, I mean, you don't have to write another black metal album, but you can listen to them. And you can kind of maybe get a sense of who you were 25 years ago, that's, that's not a small thing.
No, no, that's the beauty of it. For me, I'm really glad we did that, and left it, you know? I think that ultimately it has more value because it exists in greater scarcity than if we would have had 20 more albums of Nattens Madrigal.
Yeah. So are you ready for the quote?
So, it's not very long, but I think it's very relevant. Okay. So, he says that he is a person defined by his enthusiasms, meaning that every time he’s enthusiastic about something he does it, and then he’s enthusiastic about something else, and he does that. And here’s the quote part: "The less questioning about who I was, the more comfortable I felt. So now I have no knowledge of who I am. But I'm extremely happy.” That's the quote.
Hmm, that’s a good quote.
Yeah, I love that quote. And I think it speaks to sticking to his guns in a way, right? Some people stick to their guns as artists by doing the same thing over and over, as a kind of display of integrity. And I think his sense of integrity, and I'm not comparing you to Bowie, but I think you share a stance here, that your sense of integrity is always making sure you're doing what you want to do. And that just turns into very different things, a collection of things. And so someone would look at that and say, I have no stable idea of who Kris Rigg is, and Kris Rigg would say: “Good.”
Great, exactly [laughs]. But, it’s true. We're also quite protective of our private sphere, so to speak, and we've always been. I shut down my Facebook 10 years ago or so, almost. I don't really have any interest in letting the world in that way. And I think, I don't know, but just by observing how the world works or what sort of fuels the old engine today, I don’t know, it's quite different from most people, because that seems to be all people care about.
What they project to the world, what they bring to the world?
Just spilling their own personal business every day on social media. And, you know, “look at me in the gym,” “look at this.” And it makes the world so uninteresting and confusing. Because it just gets over saturated with completely unnecessary information about, well, everything, that you know, but you don't need to know. So, yeah, I guess that's the new punk nowadays, to go offline, to protect your personal life and protect your secrets, you know. Because the world used to have a lot of them, and there aren’t that many left [laughs].
I can tell you why I empathize with this. For years, I was, I guess, an academic, but I'm not a very good academic, it turns out, so I was trying to be an academic. And at some point, I wrote my own piece, like a prose piece, not an academic piece, about myself and my family. And interestingly enough, and this is part of why I'm interested in time, it was a very fragmented temporal thing, because I was writing about my experiences and my family's experience, but they're all mixed. So I'm, like, when my great grandfather was deported to Auschwitz I'm there as a young soldier in the Israeli army. So time is warped in a way. And for the first time in my life, as a result of me writing this, I had to, I guess, be subjected to what we're now calling interviews I have people asked me why I did this. And why I did that. And for the first time in my life, I understood how stupid that situation is. Because it wasn't because the questions were bad, and it wasn't because the people were mean spirited or stupid. It was because I felt I had already said all I could say in the best way possible.
That's exactly what we've been touching on.
Yeah. And that's a different kind of knowledge. And so once I realized that you could work very hard at making something beautiful, that expresses something that is important to you, and people will have questions about that. But your only answer is: “read the book,” just like your own answer would be “listen to the album.” Then a lot of the things that have to do with what we've been talking about, authenticity, time, self, who am I? How do I project myself? become really stupid questions. Or at least useless. Because they're not helping you create something beautiful. They're just in the way kind of? I don't know if you feel about anything about what I just said.
I sympathize completely. But it goes back to what has already been said about it being a necessary evil. You can't expect anyone to read the book if that's all you keep saying – “read a book, read the book” – people will lose interest. And that's how the world works. So there will have to be compromise.
Well, I'm happy for me, however, this compromise. So, one last question to end your misery, which I hope wasn’t great.
No, no. It’s been interesting.
Thank you, it was for me too. But in any case, I have a standard closing question, and it's kind of weird in this case, because Assassination wasn't that long ago. But as you said, you're done with it, you're in a different place. So I feel okay asking whether or not, when you look back at Assassination as a completed object is there something about that album that you're especially proud of? A song, a lyric, the way the production works, the length, the artwork, whatever.
I'm happy about many things, but if I have to highlight one, I would actually point to the production, as you mentioned, so you sort of put it in my head. But I am particularly fond of its sound, which is largely owing to us but to and Martin Glover and Michael Rendall in London, who made it sound the way it does. It probably makes it in a way easier for me to listen to the songs. In many of the things we were we did everything ourselves, you know, so that's an aspect of Caesar that I’d say I'm particularly happy about, its production. Its mix, rather, maybe not production. Its sound.
One of the things that matter to me, perhaps sometimes more than to other listeners, is how listenable albums are. It’s one of the categories that matters the most to me when I listen to an album. Because that's not a category that doesn’t come up enough. People say “important” or “influential.” If I can't listen to these albums then I don't care about these things.
It’s an important, defining thing about music.
So, Assassinations, as listenable as it is marks it precisely as a radical work of art, for me. Not something mundane or, or commercial, in the derogatory sense of that word. So, thank you.