The following interview is done with Regen Graves and was originally done for the unreleased 'zine Morte Macabre (Germany).

*Special thanks to the editor W. Wolf

Circa 2015

Interview with Regen Graves of ABYSMAL GRIEF, a band from Italy who formed in the middle of the 90s.

1. Blackest Regards to Italy and to you Regen, thanks for this interview, I’m sure you have enough to do these days. So let’s start where everything begins, tell me how you first discovered these “dark” and “horrific” interests in you? And can you remember what fascinates you the most about it?

I think there are not particular moments I can recollect to explain my descent into Occultism and Horror. It was surely before the discovery of music: I hated every form of music until the age of 11… maybe because my parents were not listening to any kind of Hard Rock music at home, so I always considered their music awful enough to keep it far from my ears. But at the same moment I was already strangely interested (or “obsessed”, if you prefer) into dead animals, insects, and graveyards, even if in a naturally childish way. All the rest developed quite fast when I grew up and began to create my own personality and discern my real tastes. That’s all.

1.1. In the beginning there is always some magic behind everything. What specifically fascinated you originally about Heavy Metal music?

It was basically a discovery of the most direct, concrete and impulsive form of Art. Heavy Metal (and Punk as well) was the easiest way to push out of the sickness I was harboring within. The “magic” consisted in the possibility to observe all that was coming out naturally and in a barely legal way (soon my art was not only playing an instrument, but robbing from graveyards as well hehe…). Nowadays I still feel the same magic, probably because my first rule was to never develop or evolve too much. Stubbornness must be the first rule to keep the feelings always alive and burning.

1.2. How old were you when you started to play your first instrument and begin to write your own songs?

Around 15-16. My uncle bought me my first electric guitar and a small Peavy amplifier, and I immediately started composing, without any lessons and only using power-chords. The same way I play nowadays.

2. In the middle of the 90s you started “Abysmal Grief” and currently you’ve released three full-length albums and many different types of other releases. Without a doubt and with no outside influence, I view your music under the widely used and simple term “Horror Music/Metal”, would you agree, or do you view your music differently?

They labeled us in every way in these 20 years, really. “Horror Metal” is ok, but for some years now we want to be labeled only as “Italian Dark Sound”: it’s the best way to describe our music, our influences and our artistic direction.

2.1. What does this music you create mean to you?

As I told you before, it’s basically the best way to let my sickness live free and spread without letting it explode in some destructive form like murder, drug addiction or suicide. So, as you can imagine, it means a lot.

[Above: Regen Graves]

2.2. Everyone has their own way of processing and creating texts or writing lyrics. Each is influenced by something specific. How is a song by “Abysmal Grief” created or how do you approach the matter and how much emotion goes into the creative process? What role is played in its development, any big changes with it?

Every song of Abysmal Grief is born from my guitar riffs, and in a second moment there’s the addition of keyboards. I usually compose in Spring/Summer, because in these seasons I am extremely depressed and my wish of Death and Hate grows exponentially, together with nerves crisis and panic attacks. When the keyboard lines are ready and definitive, and the structure of the whole song is completed, I take a (long) time to compose the lyrics. You ask about developments… well, honestly I don’t see any development regarding my style, my composing process, or the themes I dealt with during these years. Probably my Philosophy and culture regarding the Esoteric developed somehow, but it would be interesting to hear someone else tell me in which way it happened…

2.3. How does the development process of your songs and compositions look like? Where do the influences come from?

Because I think the most important aspect in the texts and the music is the belief in the creation and in yourself and recognizing what you want to achieve for yourself. Generally our songs don’t come from particular feelings. We don’t play music about feelings at all. It’s much more a matter of statements about my studies, readings or particular experiences. Anyway, nothing is so explicitly related to myself when you read the final lyrics: I try to keep always an eye from the outside.

2.4. The creativities from human to human are different of course. Everyone can derive inspiration from all possible things, but the great source of our inspiration is life itself. Your music you create, what does it mean and what value does this kind of music, art and creation have in general for you, and in what context is it for you in your personality as a creating individual?

The context is very immediate: I always wanted to create a form of Art that could represent a serious way to enter the world of the Occult, trying to keep far from easy clichés for teenagers, and exploring themes not so catchy as Satanism can be, for example. The deepest meaning of our Philosophy is related to Life and Death, and our brief passage on this spiritual level. Spiritism, Necromancy, and all the most relevant theories about contacts with the World Beyond, these are the main themes and the comprehension keys concerning Abysmal Grief. The importance is the fact that music is the best way to create the right atmospheres to give some teachings to the ones who really want to learn and to elevate themselves.

[Above: Feretri - 2013]

2.5. Do you see yourself more as an artist or as a musician?

I see myself more as an artist for the simple reason that real and serious “musicians” care about aspects I never cared too much about: identity and pride of their “role” inside the band (while I don’t care at all if I should play a guitar, drums, bass or some synths in my songs) and their care of the instruments, technical details of amplifiers and equipments, and so on. I don’t spend time in all this stuff, just the minimum required… it’s too boring. Only the process of creation and style are important for me.

3. When it comes to Metal-music from Italy there are some great bands from past to present, I’ll mention two bands who I always prefer and liked, one is, or better was, the atmospheric Black Metal-band “Evol” and the other one is “Death SS” (In Death of Steve Sylvester).

What do you think about these two bands? The special horror-music of Steve Sylvester and his activities during the 1970s until today and who had a few different musical experiences in these time periods!

Hey man, you are one of the very few to mention the great Evol and compare them to us! Their 2 demos and the first full length were fundamental for our musical education, especially regarding the use of keyboards. What can I say about Death SS… I already said and wrote everything: they were the real masters of Horror Metal and their albums (until “Panic”) are still the basics for this kind of music. Without them there wouldn’t be the Abysmal Grief as you know them. But in the last years they became a cover band of themselves, and I prefer not to comment on this…

3.1. But there not just a few good Metal-bands from Italy, I also recommend the bands “Goblin” and the musicians “Claudio Simonetti”, “Fabio Frizzi”, “Al Festa” etc. …

What music or artists do you like and prefer from your country?

You’re right, not only Metal bands were creating deep and eerie atmospheres. The names you mentioned were coming from the Prog scene for example. I could mention also Jacula, Malombra, Il Segno Del Comando, Devil Doll etc. If we stay in Metal, I must mention also Paul Chain, The Black, Black Hole, Mortuary Drape and Epitaph. These bands were quite different from each other, but they created the Italian Dark Sound, a real trademark sound impossible to recreate for someone who’s not living in Italy.

[Above: Lord Alastair]

4. Besides music, Italy had in the past a lot of great, fantastic and atmospheric horror movies too, beginning in the early 60s I think with Mario Bava “Mask of the Demon” (Black Sunday), (La maschera del demonio) until the middle of the 1990s with Michele Saovi’s “Dellamorte Dellamore” or Al Festa’s “Fatal Frames”.

What do you think about horror-films from your country and what movies do you prefer?

Italian cinematography until the end of 80s are something unique and incomparable, with no doubt. It’s a big shame that many unknown movies from that period are almost lost and very difficult to find or watch outside Italy, from the lack of distribution, or simply for the lack of subtitles! I could not say which one is my favorite. It depends on my mood. Anyway, outside Italy I’m a fanatic of your mighty Jörg Buttgereit: I watched his movies dozens and dozens times! Not such a long time ago I was in Bayern driving on Mangfallbrücke but I could not stop the car to visit it. Big shame… it was an incredibly strange feeling.

4.1. Mostly I prefer the movies of Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento, even Argento's previous films after “Non ho Sonno” (Sleepless) were not the best ones. Regarding Argento I always liked in his movies his choice and style of music, the different (tracking) shots, the colors and the atmosphere. What do you think about Dario Argento and his films from the past and present?

His present movies are sadly out of any comments… About the past ones instead, you centered the point: his genius was to create the best mixture of images, colors (he was among the last ones to use a particular process of Technicolor), and music (with the incomparable help of Goblin, of course), united to create great stories and plots. He was the best, with no doubts. Fulci was equally great, but much more disturbing and sick. They’re both on the top anyway.

4.2. Which movie is and was for you the best you've ever seen? And which was the most disturbing and terrific one?

As I told you, I’m a big fan of every Buttgereit’s movie: he’s the master of disturbing images. If we don’t take into consideration for a moment the Italian cinematography, I would suggest you “La Rose De Fer” by Jean Rollin, another freaky genius from the 70s: absolutely not scary nor disturbing, but absolutely charming.

4.3. Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Daria Nicolodi among the women, and Christopher Lee among the men: he was undoubtedly the most “complete” actor for the Horror cinematography, even if other actors like Jack Nicholson or Anthony Hopkins are great because they have that mad aura in their face, even when they play in other genres of movies.

5. About your live-shows, what can people expect from you and the band on stage? Do you use any special atmosphere to add to your music on stage?

We don’t play usual shows, man! I definitely invite you to attend one of them!

6. Back to a subject that is somewhat tiresome, but also understandable, that being the internet with all its possibilities, such as sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, blogs, or other things like that. As a rule, the internet has revolutionized everything since the very beginning, it has become somewhat of a necessary evil and it is useful in different ways, depending on your interests and beliefs. I am not trying to denigrate the internet for although there is a lot of garbage on the www, there are also a lot of informative and useful things. Apart from your activities, how much do you use the internet and all the different functions?

I use the internet very frequently to get information about what happens in the world, and I cannot denigrate it completely, but I am just worried about the huge and dangerous number of ignorant assholes spending their whole days writing comments on forums, chats or places like this: this is somehow a further demonstration that democracy can turn into something extremely harmful. Concerning music and artistic promotion, well, I have conflicting opinions about it: it’s very useful to listen to something new before buying the whole album (and not risk disappointment and waste money!) but I despise bands that consider it the only and ultimate way of promotion! Ok I shouldn’t say this, because almost 99% of bands of friends have a fucking Facebook profile!!! Hehe. But we don’t. Take your considerations…

[Above: Labes C. Necrothytus]

6.1. Nowadays with the social internet-pages like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. … musicians and bands have an easier way to communicate and for promotion, even unknown persons and fans can get faster and easier in contact with bands etc. … In the last years its looks like most bands prefer this kind of communications, because a lot of bands don’t even have their own website anymore or don’t print their snail mail as contact address in their releases, just the internet contact like email or Facebook-address.

You are not using social communications like these I mentioned and still use a web-page, why? And what do you think about the new communication and technique that bring us the revolution of the internet?

This is exactly the point: everybody can decide in which way to promote their band, that’s fine for me. But Abysmal Grief was born as an Esoteric band, in a very “etymologically” serious way. So I’m just behaving coherently with our project: you cannot be an esoterist and tell everybody what you’re doing, right? That would be childish and it would turn all your efforts into a carnival masquerade. I always thought that our music is not for everyone, so people must search for us, and follow us only if there’s a real spiritual interest and worship towards the subject. It works much better than Facebook’s “posted events”, if you know what I mean. A website is enough: when you’re interested you can type the address and take a look, otherwise you can forget us and we won’t cry for the loss.

6.2. On the other hand, humanity has created something out of George Orwell’s book „1984“ - the ultimate vision of the surveillance state, which is becoming more and more a reality, but most people aren’t interested or refuse to see it. Here again modern and revolutionary technology and the internet play a role, but there are two sides like usual, for although it seems like all the modern technology has made us all totally transparent, it could also be that without all the sources of information on the internet, we would have long ago been completely mentally enslaved!

What is your opinion on that?

We will never stop being mentally enslaved, and nothing happens by a casualty in modern society. It’s a topic extremely wide, which comprehends also economy and politics, and probably quite boring for your readers. Anyway, the world as we know it now, is basically the result of the American system connected to Jewish economy developed without control after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We can consider 1989 as the end of a good balance between Systems, and the wretched victory of capitalism that uses the mental enslavement of the people by very simple weapons, and the internet is among them, exactly because it involves direct participation. Undoubtedly now we have the impression to see more “clearly” everything: what happens in the other countries, the pollutions, the economy, and so on, just clicking on “free” blogs and similar. But at the same time “they” control all of us much deeper and much more continuously than before. A simple Facebook profile can help the C.I.A. to discover much more about a common person like you or me than dozens of secret agents of STASI, just clicking and hacking your password in a couple of minutes, and saving your photos, comments, friends contacts and so on. You’re right when you say that people don’t want to see it: they are too distracted by futile satisfactions. Orwell was sadly premonitory about actual society, but it’s a mechanism that will never stop until there is only one “owner” of the World.

7. Now a question which every person has asked at least once in their life, and that’s the question of the meaning of life! How much have you devoted yourself to this question and what do you think the meaning of life and your daily existence is?

Meaning? There’s no earthly meaning to explain why we’re here. I never thought about giving a meaning to all this. I believe in the “passages” of the souls, Death by Death, and it influences my private life and actions, but there’s not a unique meaning for everyone. Spirit’s amelioration is probably the only concrete result we can achieve in this short time we have. And most people don’t even achieve it.

[Above: Strange Rites of Evil - 2015]

7.1. Speaking of the meaning of life, we can’t forget Death, which, along with our birth, is the second and of course, the last “special” occasion in life of every last one of us! What do you think, what happens to us after we die?

I follow the very simple theory according to which our Spirit survives after many different deaths. This corporal and earthly Death is just one, and not the last one at all. After this, we don’t go to any heaven or hell, or to any “god”, but our spirits move on different levels of amelioration that we can just try to imagine.

8. Alright, to the end of the interview, please let me know besides your final words, you’re personal and musical future plans and any other info!

At the moment we’ve just completed the work on the graphics for the next album entitled “Strange Rites of Evil”, scheduled for next November 2nd and released by Terror From Hell Rec. & Horror Rec. Around September/October we will enter our studio again to record a long song for a split 12” with another Italian band, but I won’t reveal any further details right now.

8.1. Thanks a lot for this interview and your time… all the best to you and to Abysmal Grief!

I thank you for the interesting interview. In Death. R.G.

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