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Interviews : “Mgła is black metal – simple as that” – An Interview With M. (MGLA)

By on March 15, 2017

MGLA – M.

There are times when a certain band/musician will leave you completely spellbound and at a loss of words with the sheer magnanimity and darkness (especially if you love your black metal as much as I do) of their music. Polish black metal act MGLA are that band for me. With their most recent offering to the world Ex recieving much praise and attention, Metal Obsession had the unique honour and pleasure of an interview with M.; one of the two members who form MGLA. Beginning with a little humour in answer to my first question of what they are most looking forward to about coming to Australia, M. promptly replies, “Immigration clearance.” This will be their first time in our country and if you’re wondering about the setlist, wonder no more. “The live set will include material from the last two albums, plus one song from Further down the nest EP. With average song length of 6-7 minutes, there isn’t much manoeuvring space when we’re doing a 40 minute set and it was logical to focus on the more recent material.”

Before I moved on to some of the more significant questions, there was one thing I just had to ask given my  rather intense experience seeing the band life last year and having been completely blown away by it. What Mgla deliver is unique and completely different. “Much appreciated. The live incarnation of Mgła is an attempt to convey emotion through music. I would actually see it as a quite orthodox approach – what we’re doing is on purpose devoid of elements of “show”. It’s a raw, direct and bare bones performance, and an exercise in discipline for ourselves. The intent is to deliver substance, not theatrics.” As it should be. One aspect in particular is the choice of remaining hidden behind masks. This to me, especially considering the first time I saw a video of Mgła, showed me that the band want the focus of people who listen to them to be entirely on the music and not on anything else. “This is correct; or should I say – one of key approaches within Mgła is removal of aspects that we consider unnecessary. In this case, it is ourselves as individuals. The use of masks is an attempt to get rid of the rock n’ roll heritage of musicians being “idols” or “heroes”. Instead, Mgła live is an unit, where “who does what” is of little relevance.”

An ardent listener of these Polish dark lords for a while now, with every listen there is something new you seem to understand and pick up from their music but also start to realize the marked evolution over the three albums plus the EP’s.  Yet the signature dark, emotive and absolutely powerful signature sound remains –  M. shared his thoughts on whether this was a conscious effort or more spontaneous also talking about how they go about the creative writing process. “It’s conscious, in line with our own consciousness (aesthetic, technical, philosophical etc.) increasing over the years. We develop in sensibility and skill and naturally this is reflected in the way of how we approach music. That said, we have a strict view of what Mgła should be, and its development is focused on getting closer and closer to what we consider the core of black metal.”

“There was a good deal of improvisation when laying basic song structures in earlier releases. Since “With hearts toward none”, this has been removed nearly completely. The process of collecting ideas, riffs, lyrics etc. basically starts immediately after the completion of previous recording. When enough of source material has been accumulated, and when we are confident that we have something relevant to say, we start the process of arranging songs and recording. In case of “Exercises in futility”, it took around 6 months. As Mgła is meant to be tailored very precisely after our own vision, we did not work with anyone outside band and did all the technical work of recording, mixing etc. ourselves as well.”

Lyrically, a large part of the music centers around some very emotional/philosophical content, or at least that is what I feel when I listen to it. My nerdy, literature-loving alter-ego was chuffed with what I heard next. “100% of Mgła music centers around emotional content – we wouldn’t have it any other way. Each note and each word are there for a purpose. The content can probably be approximated to the term “existentialism” and/or “nihilism”. The inspiration can come from whatever stimulus (situation, discussion, work of art…) that results in triggering an emotional response. Within literature, what I’ve found to be resonating are works of Bukowski, Cioran, Celine, Houellebecq, Kafka, Lem, McCarthy, Vonnegut and so on.” Not all black metal is about Satan, as much a I connect with such themes, Mgla’s lyrics hold a very different persona; one that you need to really pay attention to. 

What does Mgła represent? “Mgła is black metal – simple as that. To us, black metal is a very natural and fitting way of expression for the sort of emotions we need to express. Black metal in itself can be a quite broad term, obviously. As people, we are actually very open when it comes to music (/art) in general, and that goes far beyond various genres of metal – and as our general knowledge of art broadens, so our view on black metal becomes stricter. Of course – there is a great deal of thought & effort put into Mgła, and some of it I believe exceeds what you would expect from a typical BM band; however, I like to keep things simple and just call it “black metal”, hoping that the audience would reach below the surface themselves, rather than having one adjective after another shoved down their throats.”

I can’t help but feel when I listen to/see Mgła, that you represent the ominous aspects of this world; questions that are unanswered or things that are considered taboo. The music sets the tone for this sort of thing as well. M. response pleased me greatly as I’m sure it will, you. ” It does represent the ominous and/or doubting aspects of ourselves primarily – and yet I’ve been surprised with how many times I heard others could relate to it. Which is, of course, appreciated, even if not expected. Emotional content of Mgła drifts between struggle, resignation, anger, fear, doubt and spiritual nadir. There is no intent of actively passing on a message. What we do is creating a very finely crafted display cage for our own horror. It is up to the listener to see if there is anything in there that would resonate with them.”

In addition to this,  the cover art as well has always spoken loudly to me and seems to have a powerful underlying message behind it. ” It’s more of 20th century expressionism feel to me personally. Visual representation is being selected so that image would represent the conceptual/emotional current of the album. It is then altered as we see fit (or created from scratch). “Groza” translates to “the horror” and the front cover is exactly it. “With hearts toward none” is Mount Carmel (hint: St John of the Cross). “Exercises in futility” cover, the blind man reaching out and grasping nothing, has actually been found & selected quite a while before we started composing – we immediately knew it was “it” upon seeing it for the first time. Months later I found a quite striking reference in one of Cioran’s books, which in turn was reflected in the last words of the first song of the album:

‘There is something about the rigid posture of a proper, authentic blind (man). As if extended arms reached to pass his blindness onto others’.” Let that sink in. 

There was one last question I had for M. out of my respect for him and Mgła (and a deep curiosity). On asking him to share his opinion on the metal/extreme metal scene these days, he replied saying, “I’m not a biggest fan of most of the new stuff. To me, there seems to be way too much focus on detail, while the foundation itself is lacking in the first place. If there is progress, it’s more side-stepping rather than actual progress. In context of metal, most releases that highly resonate with me are from the 90’s. Of the newer bands that I would find inspiring/extraordinary, Deathspell Omega and Portal definitely deserve acknowledgement.

“We’re not particularly good in giving messages. Those interested in what we’re doing are invited to see & judge for themselves.”

Direct Underground Fest

Direct Underground Fest begins this Friday, 17th of March in Sydney. Surely, after reading this, you’re intrigued if you are not (yet) a fan; and if you are, I’ll see your dark souls there. 

Details in the link below:

http://www.directtouring.com/current.html

About

Prarthana is a vegan, Indo-Aussie, heavy music addict, fluent in sarcasm and metal. Traveling is an obsession as she enjoys taking in the history of various countries and following her favorite bands. She's either eating, teaching grammar or learning an instrument, when not occupied with windmilling in the faces of other humans.