Recently, a Last Rites-funded team of archaeologists made a surprising discovery, an ancient text hidden away in a cave, clearly foretelling of the rise of Mollusca and the latest album by his celestial emissaries, the almighty Slugdge. Here it is, presented in its entirety, never before seen by the eyes of humankind…
If you haven’t had your head squarely inside your own ass for the last few weeks you might have noticed that the internet is aflutter lavishing praise on Slugdge’s 2018 effort Esoteric Malacology. That album has catapulted Slugdge from something of a cult favorite squarely into the forefront of the death metal scene.
After hearing Esoteric Malacology it was clear that we needed to sit down with Matt Moss to chat about lyrical themes, nazism in metal and, of course, Ice-T.
Starting off light, people are always pretty psyched about your song titles. Is that something that you always enjoyed in other works? How much effort do you put into making your song titles have such depth?
They are usually the working titles that we didn’t change, unless they were completely ridiculous, and as you can probably tell, that bar is set very low indeed. Really, though, they are just our way of paying homage to other bands, most of the time anyway.
In particular, “Crop Killer,” is one hell of a title given the lyrical content. Can you dive a bit deeper into what you’re going for here? There’s plenty about hive theory and power dynamics, what’s your take on the direction of human life on earth? What can we, as regular people, do to deter the inevitable collapse?
I feel like I should preface this response by saying that if you came for the riffs and the slugs, you needn’t read too much into my opinions expressed in the lyrics. Our first duty is to have fun. I’m not really into the habit of foisting my political ideas onto people through our music. Having said that, no art is apolitical, and our final destination as a civilisation is relevant to the themes of the lyrics.
The title really has nothing to do with the actual subject matter at hand, to be honest; I’m just a fan of Ice-T. “Crop Killer” was more to do with your typical Slug MO rather than relating directly to the controversial song by Body Count. The lyrics are a pretty broad subject in that one, particularly focused on the current trend we’re seeing in the world: a belief that we can somehow “go backwards”. I’m just an entertainer, not a political theorist, but I have quite strong opinions when it comes to the survival of our species irrespective of our national identities, creed, or the idea of a ‘clash of civilisations’
I believe we all want the same thing: a unified, peaceful, ordered world, but when it comes to how we get there, we all have very different ideas. The trends I see are political vs economic vs religious, but I am very dubious of the idea we can dismantle the political system that, for all it’s flaws, we’ve spent a great deal of time trying to “tame” to benefit us, in favour of a corporate model which to me seems even more beyond the ken of regular people. It’s effectively trading one master for another in my view. The concept of global theocracy, despite the whole theme of our band, is anathema to me.
There is another, more personal part of this though, which is this idea that things were somehow better in the past; they weren’t. I see this meme flying around occasionally about how the Spartans and Vikings weren’t “snowflakes like people today,” or how young men in WW2 were somehow tougher back then because they were forced to fight for their survival. My Grandfather fought in WW2, and the things that happened to him — seeing his friends killed, seeing death on that scale — these things haunted him for the rest of his days. An entire generation paid the price for the choices of the few. Never again. You don’t want your children killed for perceived weakness, or sent to the agoge to have compassion beaten out of them. The Norsemen were a desperate people trying to escape geographical challenges in Scandinavia when they decided to invade England a thousand years ago. The point is, you can’t compare what is with what was, but some parts of our history are cyclical. We can learn those lessons vicariously; the current refugee crisis is a good modern example. I don’t know the answer — I just have a good idea from history of what the incorrect response is.
Themes of selfishness pop up throughout the lyrics on the album, is that something you’re experiencing on a macrocosmic level or something that’s affecting your day-to-day life?
Both. I’m as a much a product of my environment as anyone else, and very distrustful because of it. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do now before I do it, because i’ve been somewhat “impulsive” in the past: cruel, selfish and stupid. I’m all for forgiving people’s transgressions because I’ve made plenty, but as stated earlier, there are some macrocosmic instances of selfishness that will destroy us unless we get our shit together now. They say our economic system isn’t a zero sum game, but when you take from the world, transform nature into shit, then dump shit back into nature, well, that’s going to have consequences. As we get rich the rest of life on Earth is denuded and life is pushed to the brink of extinction. So we can talk all we want about how it’s the best system tried thus far; it might be, and it’s a phase we may have needed in our development, but it’s also literally killing us. Maybe all of them will though. We can’t die out either so we have to try our best collectively. I’m 100% for taking our place among the stars, but we have to get our house in order first. This planet is an oasis in a seemingly endless expanse of nothingness, let’s get our priorities in order. There is a great filter (see the fermi paradox) which we may have passed, or may lie before us. Mollusca may be a font of endless knowledge, the form of our destructor, or we ourselves may be the god in waiting; the first of our kind. Let’s see, shall we?
This is your first release on Willowtip, and really your first LP released via an actual label. Did that change the way you went into the album? What’s the experience been like with a label versus working independently?
There has certainly been more to do, but Willowtip are easy going, they let you be you and don’t encroach on our process. I’ve said before that, in the past, I could release an album the day we finished it and start work on a new one the day after when we were independent. Can’t do that now. However, the business side to music — vinyls, cds, merch — that’s all far less of a chore now Willowtip is handling things. When it comes to music, I was never very business-minded anyway; it’s a labour of love for us.
You were pretty open on social media about the whole Taake tour being canceled. I’m wondering if you can expand on that a bit and talk about what you see as going wrong in the insular metal scene and, maybe, what you see actually going well.
It baffles me how a grown man thought wearing a swastika on stage was going to go well in the current climate. Yes, lots of people have done it in the past, either to poke fun or to be edgy and make some kind of “statement” (not sure what), but tensions are running high at the moment concerning a resurgence in some of the ideas related to fascism.
Do I think he is a nazi? Probably not, no. As with Phil Anselmo’s “white wine” fueled debacle, it just makes me roll my eyes and think “That was very misguided”. He was almost certainly trying to drum up publicity, and it blew up in his face. Seeking publicity by adopting controversial icons you then publicly denounce doesn’t seem “trve” to me, but I might be missing his overall point. I’m willing to give anyone a second chance. Poking at religion is a fairly established part of heavy metal, and I’ve no problem with it. We have to be quite careful with that though. Attacking ideas? Fine. Persecuting people for them? No. Again, this theme of the cyclical nature of history is worth considering. If the belief system is sufficiently violent, then, yes, we must confront that, but I think what a lot of people would be surprised to find is people within those religious traditions who hold the same opinion as them, and fight constantly within them for reform, be they believers or apostates.
That being said, I’ve heard (can’t verify because I wasn’t there) that threats were made, and it resulted in shows being shut down. I don’t believe we should do that, either. Subject matter in metal and punk has also been fairly shocking, be it Cannibal Corpse, Mayhem, GG Allin or whoever. Some of my favourite bands have espoused stuff straight out of the Satanic Bible, which I view as Ayn Rand for people who like goats and chalices, but I would never attempt to shut them down. Even our lyrics have parts you could mistake for my opinions, but they are often being told from the perspective of an alien/nature itself. “Don’t ban it; just don’t buy it,” is what I would say. I’m influenced/informed by Norwegian black metal, but there are members of that scene that will never get a penny from me, even if I think their music is good. No one is perfect, I get it, but there is a line.
The new album is just remarkable, not to say your previous releases haven’t been excellent in their own right. What are your expectations for this one and did you feel like something “special” was happening while you were writing it?
I had no expectations, really. I never do; we just write, and if we enjoy it, cool. If we don’t, we scrap it and start again. We are constantly blown away by the response we get. It didn’t hit home until the other day when someone from one of my favourite bands was telling me how much he loved it. That made it more real to me, because previously most of what I’d seen was online, and the online world has this weird unreality to it. I know some of the reasons why people like us, and they are the reasons I personally like making this music, which is lucky! Still, the response is much more than I anticipated, and I think we have the fans and certain journalists (also fans themselves) to thank for that, really. In the early days, it felt like it was just being passed from friend to friend, like the old days, and that’s a good feeling. They are part of Slugdge, too, which is something that is reflected in many of the themes, and something I hope continues.
You close out the record with some serious Latin. Did you study Latin in school or are those things you’re pulling from biblical texts? It seems to me that you’re really creating your own universe or galaxy within which to frame your ideas. What’s the relationship between what you’re doing and religion?
I’m not a religious person, but I was raised Catholic, and in Catholicism, there is this strain of fire and brimstone kind of preaching I always found quite amusing. Hell and damnation is a given, but I never disagreed with that sentiment either. Life is pain; it’s struggle, and through struggle, we are born anew. You get similar things in Islam with the concept of Jihad, and the Hebrew Bible is extremely heavy going, too, in regards to the wrath of God. It’s not just the Abrahamic religions that I draw inspiration from — there are interesting parts of others, particularly Zoroastrian beliefs, Hinduism and my personal favourite, the Mayan pantheon, the Popol Vuh being one of those holy texts that just leaves you thinking “what the Xibalba is going on?”. Then there’s the work of Lovecraft. In terms of mythology, that was a game-changer for me, but I’ve said a lot about that before.
The Latin thing just felt suitable, and it’s something that crops up a lot in black metal, so it’s a nod to that/taking the piss, because when it’s put together, in reality, it won’t make much sense, and it rarely does when other bands do it either. I’m not a student of Latin; I have a baseline understanding of it, though. There are bits like “Numquam non Paratus” etc that do have personal meaning to me, though: It’s the motto of my father’s family. He was an artist, probably responsible for much of who I’ve become, despite our differences, but he died before he could see me really explore my artistic side. I think that despite everything, he would have been proud. Although, he was trained in classical Latin and Greek, so he’d probably go to great lengths to correct my grammar. That was him, though.
In a society based entirely on internet interactions, where words are typed out rather than spoken, do you care if people pronounce the band name properly?
No. I made a short clip where I was correcting people’s pronunciation, but I’m not really bothered. We toyed with the idea of making all the letters silent, but discussing us would have become too difficult. Some people have expressed their hatred for the spelling, but once again, it’s not to be taken too seriously. I saw someone complaining about how i’d written Transylvanian on the song “Transilvanian Fungus”, but I think they might have missed the point of that, too. Being able to type things out and consider what you’re saying has its plus points, but context is often lost. I’d hope people take that into consideration with both formats. I think some of the tongue-in-cheek nature of what we do can be misinterpreted, but for the purposes of interviews, it’s usually better for me, as in person, I tend to waffle endlessly and forget what the question was. Anyway, I’m starting to waffle.