...The Soil Bleeds Black

      With five releases since 1995, and many side-projects and other artistic pursuits, these twin brothers are very active in the underground music scene. Inspired by the medieval world, their discography is as follows, "Summoning the Dragons of Wyth" (1995), "Because the world is so untrue..." (1996), "The Kingdom & its Fey" (1997), "March of the Infidels" (1997), "May the blood of many..." (1998) and soon to be released "Crucible of the Divine Trinosophie". Listening to the music of T.S.B.B. is much like taking an audio tour back in time, to medieval Europe. A very unique combination of many instruments, samples and sounds, Mike & Mark Riddick (accompanied by vocalist Eugenia Houston) are masters of the sounds of yesterday. This detailed interview is done by Mike and Mark Riddick...

Your band name is rather unique, how was '...the Soil Bleeds Black,' chosen? What is the significance behind the name?
MARK: The title of the band is based upon the Druidic tale of Yns Wyth (Dragon's Isle). It is a tale wherein the last dragon on Earth shed his blood into the soil (on an island off the coast of England). The soil there is of a black-red color, hence ...the Soil Bleeds Black. The three periods before the title of our band (otherwise known as an ellipsis in English grammar) infers that something came before it. Essentially, the ellipsis is representative of the past (ancient ways).

Tell us about your CD release 'The Kingdom & its fey.' For those who have never heard it, describe your style and explain what some of your lyrics deal with.
MARK: Musically, we attempt to recreate the medieval period of life for the listener. We invite the listener to join in various middle age activities such as the merriment of a drunken pub gathering, a battle to save the kingdom, or perhaps the laboratory experiment of an alchemist.
MIKE: In essence, we seek to portray the totality of that which is: medieval. As simple as it may seem, it truly offers an exploration into the vast domain of the human psyche and lifestyle of former customs, ideas, and patterns of life.
Are you currently working on a new release? If so, will it be in the same vein as 'The Kingdom & its fey'? What changes can we expect?

MARK: Yes, we are currently working on our fourth album, which shall be titled: "Crucible of the Divine Trinosophie." It will differ in some ways from "The Kingdom & Its Fey" but it will surely follow a medieval theme. The sound quality is much better as we have upgraded our studio from 4 tracks to 8 tracks, allowing us to diversify the instrumentation and to build a thicker and fuller sound. We are also using more natural instruments with less emphasis on synthetics and sampling, and one may also expect a guest appearance by Sweden's Arcana on this album!

Overall, have you been satisfied with your releases? Have you felt you've gotten a good response from your listeners?
MARK: I am satisfied with all of our creations, however there always tends to be a few parts I wish I could go back and change. The packaging of our albums always gets messed up in one way or another. For instance, on our debut, the title of the album was spelled "The Kingdom & It's Fey" (the apostrophe 's' should not be there). Also the disc printing on our debut came out a little too yellow, which I didn't expect. On "March of the Infidels", the packaging was too glossy (as we prefer the flat non-UV digipaks) and the title of our band was spelled wrong (...The Spoil Bleeds Black). Finally, on "May the blood of many a valiant knight be avenged," the cover & back cover artwork wasn't aligned correctly, leaving too much margin. These are just some minor errors that were made by ourselves and the record labels. The response to our music has been that people either really enjoy it or they absolutely hate it. I think this factor depends upon whether or not the listener has a fascination with the medieval times.

What do you wish to portray through your music? If there was a message clearly written in your music, what would it say?
MARK: We try to portray medieval lifestyle by any means possible (via traditional and non-traditional instruments, samples, artwork, fashion, et al). If I could think of one message it would be: "Join this medieval fest!"
MIKE: Agreed, damn it!

How do you occupy your spare time? Hobbies? Interests?
MARK: I just graduated from college with a major in Studio Art (and minor in Philosophy) so some of my time is spent searching for a permanent job. On the side I do freelance artwork (which I have actually been doing for the past 7 years). I am currently the Assistant Editor for Hellion Magazine, which is a publication for extreme underground artwork and music. I am a staff member of Gothic Studios, a fairly new comic book company based in California (http://members.aol.com/gothra2/gothic.htm). I am a constant art contributor to Pit Magazine (doing art for their publications and T-shirts). Other than that I spend my time focusing on my fine art, musical side-projects, and my girlfriend (whom I adore very much).
MIKE: Music occupies and sustains the majority of my lifestyle. Besides this endeavor, I also participate in the creation of computer imagery, digital photography, and web design. Thinking is another past time which is highly esteemed.

Are you currently working on any side projects? If so, tell us a bit about them and how they differ from T.S.B.B.
MARK: We are working on a project entitled, 15 Delights of Dionysus, with a close friend of ours named, Mike Bull. This project may be described as nightmarish industrial art. We focus heavily on ambient textures laden with industrial machine-like sounds and pounding beats. So far we have two official releases: "The Lament of Virtue" limited cassette with A5 size packaging on Italy's Slaughter Productions (home of Marco Corbelli - Atrax Morgue) and "Thrice Is the Divinity of Dark Gods" limited split cassette with Italy's Drift (special packaging) on Harmonie Productions (France). Moonroot is another production of ours. It is a collaboration between the Riddick Klan and Proscriptor of the infamous Southern Abyssic Communion, namely Absu. This music is in the progressive medieval phantasy rock/metal vein. We hope to sign a contract with Italy's dark prog-rock label, Black Widow Records in the near future. I have also recently been composing some gothic electro industrial music for my personal interest, not to be released.
MIKE: My primary effort of interest is the .:yamatu:. conception, which is a true and undefiled expression of my being. If you are interested and fortunate, you might find this material somewhere...otherwise it drifts in patterns of obscurity. I have also composed some phantasy sound-themes which may be issued on vinyl through Profane Elite Productions (Peru), though this is pending at the moment.

What inspires you, musically and lyrically? Life in general?
MARK: In terms of music, I am often inspired by art and movies. The art of the Gothic and pre-Raphaelite periods inspire me most. Gothic artists such as Pieter Brueghel, the elder, and the likes of Bosch, Limbourgh brothers, and Eyck (all of whom are Flemish/Dutch painters) seem to portray medieval life and the religious turmoil of the 14th century in great detail. The pre-Raphaelites, Edward Burnes-Jones and Rossetti (to name a few), depicted a medieval/renaissance lifestyle in a more modern era (the late 1800's) with a sort of lush and romantic quality. The inspiration I get from movies comes from the brilliant medieval/fantasy films of the 1980's, such as Krull, Dragonslayer, Willow, Conan, The Never Ending Story, Excalibur, and Monty Python's Holy Grail. Also more modern films such as Braveheart, Dragonheart, First Knight, The Iron Mask, and Ever After. In terms of my existence...truth, beauty, and the pursuit of wisdom serve as inspirations.
MIKE: In terms of discovering inspiration along medieval themes, I would have to similarly agree with the aforementioned list of my brother. I find a great depth of rich expression in the art of the medieval age as well as in modern themes which attempt to capture this essence (be it any form of media).

What do you see for the future of the band? What would you like to accomplish?
MARK: Well, by the time you read this, TSBB will be split apart. I will remain in Virginia, while my brother will move to Texas, and Eugenia will be in North Carolina. This does not mean that TSBB will come to a complete end though; we will continue to compose music via mail and by visiting one another on occasion. At the moment we are finishing up the minor details on our fourth album. The material is tighter, thicker, and has a more traditional feel to it. In the future we may also establish plans to include the addition of more session members and/or collaborations.

What have your experiences been working together, not only as siblings, but as twins? Describe the pros and cons of this unique arrangement.
MARK: There really aren't any cons, except for some slight musical differences once in awhile. We hardly ever work on material together, as we usually compose hymns on our own. Sometimes we might touch each other's work up with some samples, vocals, or effects, but for the most part we write the music separately. Of course we must approve of each other's work before it is decided on as a final track for a release. Lately, it seems as though I have been writing most of the material on my own. I did almost all of "May the blood..." with the exception of about five tracks and I have written all of the hymns for the fourth album so far.

What style of music do you prefer to listen to? Any bands in particular?
MARK: Well, I grew up on heavy metal music but now I mostly listen to darkwave. Other styles I'm into include Industrial, Gothic, Black Metal, Death Metal, Doom, Progressive, 80's Rock, and Ambient/Experimental. Some of my favorite bands include: Sopor Aeternus, Arcana, Penitent, Proscriptor, Cernunnos' Woods, The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud, Der Blutharsch, Ataraxia, Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, Stoa, Hammerfall, Merlons Of Nehemiah, Ved Buens Ende, Mortiis, Crystal Phoenix, Cryptopsy, Dark Funeral, Setherial, Love Spirals Downwards, In Battle, Asia, Men At Work, Angizia, Falkenbach, Otyg, Storm, Tristania, Il Segno Del Commando, Haggard, Devil Doll, Sanctum, White Willow, Front Line Assembly, Haujobb, Xerxes, and the list continues.
MIKE: Likewise, I indulge all the same musical fashions as my brother. Lately I have been listening to The Gathering (old), Tristania, Thornspawn, Absu, Theatre of Tragedy, Crystal Phoenix, My Wounded Child, This Ascension, Cradle of Filth, etc.

In many of the underground music scenes, Christianity seems to be the object of great distaste and/or disregard. When we inquire about this subject, many express that they believe that Christianity has been instrumental in furthering the world's decadence. How does ...the Soil Bleeds Black feel about Christianity?
MARK: Some of the nicest and most pleasant people I know are Christians. I don't think that Christianity is furthering our world's decadence, I think ignorance, hatred, acts of evil, and natural disasters are mainly accountable for any sort of decline.
MIKE: I agree with my brother on this point. Though Christians may often seem lacking in depth of mind or freedom from lack of critical thought, many do employ an ethic of high standard which may be held accountably virtuous. I have studied theology and do find it to be an intriguing subject, though I find even greater pleasure in raising a middle finger to the heavens or proclaiming a humorous blasphemy against the heavenly host! I suppose the piss of the devil is in my veins!?

In the past few years, both in America and abroad, there have been numerous attacks on Christianity (church arson, bombings, vandalism, etc.) Some of the most popular in the vast underground music scene have been those of Scandinavia. These acts, as explained by their perpetrators, were motivated by a few reasons. One of which is vengeance, as many of the old Christian churches were built atop the ruins of pagan religious sites. Being as Christianity is in fact an alien religion to Europe, one that came with fire and sword to force their beliefs unto others, do you believe that these acts against the church are justified?
MIKE: Perhaps such actions may be justified in some sense, though there is a misguidance in the temporal domain here. Vengeance would have perhaps been more understandable (and even appropriate) if it had occurred within the century of which Christianity took its hold on Europe. However, the statement of vengeance still remains a plausible excuse for such actions, though a weak one at that. Furthermore, would much truly be accomplished by pure vengeance alone, or may there be even greater ways of rectifying the pagan past once again...without having to utilize physical eradication of Christian establishments? I trust there are better ways of accomplishing goals than to have to light a church on fire. Though such an event may potentially be a source of inspiration for a pagan black metaller, understandably.
MARK: There is a fine line between vengeance and breaking the law.

Explain your view on the Inquisition and witch burnings.
MIKE: The Inquisition was easily an offshoot of the medieval Christian mind. That is, a mind which believed in the literal existence of a heaven and hell, with an undying fervor to terminate all potential heretics that might be a threat to themselves or to their community. What resulted were the witch burnings. It was an unfortunate circumstance of ignorance, hopefully never to be repeated.

What about other religions? What are your thoughts on Satanism or Paganism?
MIKE: All religions are fascinating in their own particular respects, as they may all have something unique to state or grasp regarding the human condition and the complexities therein. As for my thoughts on Satanism and Paganism, it is difficult to make a firm opinion of these given the variety of definitions that encompass these 'religions.' Paganism seems quite difficult to restore these days, given our present time period and our lack of historical record on the tradition, though it still can exist in many purified and 'actual' forms I believe. If Satanism is to be understood as the religion established by Anton LaVey, then I would argue that it offers a great awareness to a mind who seeks to accomplish much in life and desires material pleasures. It is a strong philosophy, though it may have its weaknesses and faults as well. An in depth analysis of these matters would require a book (no doubt) so I hesitate to reveal my criticisms and admirations here.

There is definitely a rise in interest the past few years of Paganism in general. Many books have been published recently on the subject, yet unfortunately, most of them are 'new age' interpretations of past beliefs and practices. One is hard pressed to find books dealing with authentic religious practices. To a lot of people, to whom in their defiance or disdain for Christianity, Satanism is a much easier and sometimes more glamorous road. They see it as the first alternative in their choice of beliefs. What are your thoughts on all of this?
MIKE: The earlier part of your statement is precisely what I was trying to express in terms of finding authentic materials pertaining to the true pagan practices of our past. The 'new age' literary genre is flooded with neo-pagan concepts and ideologies that are corrupted with Wiccan practices and other such mainstream magical religions. It is truly quite a misfortune that honest pagan traditions with integrity and discipline are so scarce. Perhaps this does play a role within an individual who might choose the path of Satanism above that of Paganism. I'm not sure that any religious undertaking offers a form of glamour, but it may certainly add a heightened attentiveness towards oneself and one's existence that may conjure a glamorous perception of life in one's mind and experience. My thoughts on the choice of belief is that one must be very critical of all life before ascribing to a particular code or system of action. Beliefs may vary as time progresses, but there must be a strong foundation and fundament upon which they are built...that is: a law of the universe that is reasonable, efficient, and trustworthy. Essentially, a strong belief system ought to incorporate a powerful metaphysic and epistemology that is usefully applicable to the sentient entity undertaking such an endeavor.

Many of the bands from the black/death genre of music who once used Satanic imagery have taken up a more pagan approach in recent years. Which seems a logical step, as they soon learn that the very demons and devils which they once glorified were indeed another part of Christianity. And that historically the church would label the pagan deities as evil and demonic, just as prescribed to them in their 'holy' book. 'For I am a jealous God...' Comments?
MIKE: This is quite an accurate observation. It is always through the passage of time that beliefs are refined and better understood, as we grow and evolve in our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us. Though at times the perception of a completely raw Satanic metal band may have its privileges, it is still fascinating to view the ways in which bands grow and shape themselves according to time.

Do you believe in an afterlife? Is their a goal to reach through this life?
MIKE: The goal to reach in our life is the attainment of personal fulfillment. What fulfills an individual is an entire topic in itself and may be wide and far-ranging (encompassing gratifications, desires, needs, wants, and ethics). What better than to live a life which is good, true, and beautiful!? There is no better. As for an afterlife, I would typically deny the existence of such according to my strict objectivist pursuits, but there is an immaterial side of me that I do not often reveal, which does hold particular contentions towards what occurs following (what we observe to be) the death of the physical corpus. All that I understand at this moment is that I shall never cease to be...simply by virtue of the fact that I am.
MARK: The key word here is 'belief'. Nobody can say that they have experienced the afterlife unless they are truly dead. It is questionable what death is. There are claims of 'near death experiences', however what constitutes death? Death of the corpus, death of the soul (if there even is such a thing), etc? Is the inability to experience the beginning of death?

Your music and imagery seems heavily influenced by the past. What are some of the things, in your opinion, the old world possessed that the present lacks?
MIKE: The old world possessed a vast conglomeration of artisans that this present world lacks. Be this in terms of traditional art or contemplative philosophy. The present age also lacks the strict rule of the church that once reigned in medieval Europe as the center of life. Though it may be better for us in this present age, it is still a contrasting difference between the time sets. The old world also had a respect for nature that is often lacking in our technological era. The divinity of the true essence of our planet is very much lost (though perhaps is being rekindled by neo-pagan communities in some form or another). The varieties are endless, as the perceptual standpoint of a medieval individual far deviates from our present information-based minds. Volumes could be written on the distinctions (culturally, historically, and conditionally)!

When hearing the word 'truth,' what comes to mind? What about, on the other hand, its supposed opposite, 'lie'?
MIKE: The word "truth" is of highest importance and value to my life. Understanding and grasping what is truthful about ourselves and the world we experience is vital in the pursuit of leading a fulfilling and wondrous life. What good would there be in the living out of a lie!? Because we live in a world that is composed of order and non-contradictions, we may thereby come to discern and understand it through the tool of reason. It is for this reason (no pun intended), that reason may be held as the highest logical device in the aim towards grasping what is truthful. Any other method of understanding would be contradictory, and therefore erroneous. How one goes about seeking truth is a very delicate and intricate matter. It is not easily obtained, and can not be acquired through one medium alone.
MARK: When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.
Lastly, as we approach the end of the millennium, there is a certain feeling in the air and much talk of the end of the world. So many share this bleak outlook, with no hope for a brighter tomorrow. They see a dark future, ultimately climaxing with the end of everything. What do you believe we can expect for the future of mankind? Is there any hope?
MIKE: I am not one to say whether there shall be hope in the future or not. It is a rather self-deprecating behavior to waste time with a negative outlook on our world...though often such an outlook may be justifiable, indeed...as my trust in humanity is little to nothing, given their pathetic and idiotic nature. This was the theme embraced in our release titled: "Because the world is so untrue, I go my way so full of rue" (a quote from a Flemish inscription that appears on Brughel's rendition of 'The Misanthropist'). I do not tend to focus on the future of humankind as a whole unit, but rather on myself and those for whom I am in league with. It is their and my own future which is important to me. I could care less about the other fleshwastes which inhabit this planet. Let them die...it would make for a better universe.

Any final thoughts?
MARK & MIKE: Yes. Our appreciations for this extensive and fascinating interview. It is rare to receive such intriguing questions and we honor that quite much! May we mourn the ancient...! Let the blood of many a valiant knight be avenged!!!

c/o Riddick Brothers
604 Third Street
Herndon, VA 20170

Mark Riddick: riddick@erols.com
Mike Riddick: riddick@stic.net
Eugenia Houston: puregc@aol.com

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