Noise and Black Metal go pretty well together, although I’m certainly not the only one to come up with this brilliant formula. Nevertheless, creating inspiring and moving Noise (or similar kind of Black Metal for that matter) is not as easy as it seems, and the underground markets are full of attempts to create something special. Of these attempts one group has in my opinion succeeded in creating something truly magickal and special, and that is why I’m honoured to talk with Kevin Gan Yuen and Andrew Way (whom joined to the interview after sending the questions to Kevin) of the magnificent Sutekh Hexen.
Hello Kevin! Who is life in San Francisco at the moment?
K: Hello, I am doing good, thanks. I must clarify, that we are currently in Oakland/East Bay, except for Joshua –who is the sole member of the band that living in San Francisco at the moment.
A: My names not Kevin. I don’t feel qualified to answer that.
When did you get interested in Noise music, and how did this happen? How about Black Metal? What sort of stuff were you exposed to growing up, and what kind of music were you interested for example in your early teens?
A: I actually came to Noise music through Black Metal in the 90’s. I got sick of Punk and its attitudes (still am!) and worked at a record store, so I started to dig. And kept digging, it was only a matter of time until I got to Noise. What cemented it for me was I was moving and I broke my turntable. It started playing everything at 3 1/3 instead of 33 1/3… I have been trying to capture that sound ever since… In the 80’s and early 90’s I was into Hip Hop. During the golden era.. Then got more into Punk and shit like that.
K: I came from a very small town in Central California, with limited exposure to extreme music, other than a handful of friends Black/Death metal bands, or punk and Indie bands who came through on their way to San Francisco or Los Angeles. I did not use the internet very much back then either. It was not as readily available for me as it is now. Noise music came into my radar around the early 00’s when I decided to moved to the Bay Area, and only then had wider exposure to what was going on with the live scene and all over, primarily through friends that I had met. I worked in a record store for a few years too, back in my home town, and had some exposure there, but my fascination at that period was heavily in Black Metal, but stuff outside of that like: Masonna, Wolf Eyes, and Sunn, and a few others, really left a good impression on me.
How is the Oakland music scene? I’ve heard it’s quite openminded and artistic. Are you active socially in the local music world or do you keep to yourself?
A: The Oakland Scene has every type of music you could want to get into… and quite a few that you wouldn’t.
K: There is a lot of support here for live and interesting music in Oakland, it seems like somebody is either in a band, always leaving on tour, or involved in art/music to some degree. It’s great that people here are always working hard on their projects to make something happen.
How is the North American (or global for that matter) community of your kind of music? Is it really loose and random, with some individuals or bands conversing here and there, or is it tight and connected?
K: That is hard to say, because we have folks from all over who like Sutekh Hexen, so any sense of centralized community is nonexistent, and maybe loosely gauged through analytics and mail-order… Which is the probably the primary source of connectivity, through technology and media platforms.
A: It seems there are many like minded people spread all over… I wouldn’t call it tight. The US is too big for that.
To a lot of people Noise music is appalling, disgusting, disturbingly chaotic, while to others it functions as a cathartic and purifying intense psychological experience. What is the motivation behind Sutekh Hexen in this matter, to shock people or enlighten people, or are these essentially the same thing?
A: To me they are the same. If someone is shocked or disturbed by a performance, thats good. That means Noise is still relevant. This isn’t for everybody. I have had people tell me that we have changed their opinion on Noise.. Hopefully it was for the better… Hahaha.
K: We enjoy the opportunities to play together, with our friends, and are fortunate that other people connect with what we are doing. It’s what we do. I guess it depends on what others intentions as a band are and the context of their work. Generally speaking, I think Noise and it’s related sub-genres, and the subject matter that is covered or associated with these forms of musics, are still pretty extreme for most people, even in a new age of accessibility and open-mindedness(?), and a huge part of it is that it’s not widely promoted like other conventional or independent forms of music, and for the most part, remains deeply underground – with an already dedicated and sustained global support and largely growing fan-base.
Your song-lengths vary from about 5 mins to longer 15 minute or even 30 minute songs. Do you see these lengths as fundamentally different in experiencing expanded (or compressed) states of mind, or can a really short piece work positively in this aspect as well?
K: No, the results should remain the same if successfully executed, since narrative has a lot to do with the contents timing and structure.
A: I think that short and long pieces are both effective. Long ones enable more movement and build… Short ones are better for harsher, nastier songs… All important.
You use a lot of Occult symbolism in your art. Is spirituality something that is with you in your daily life, besides being a source of inspiration for making art? Which spiritual systems and traditions do you find most appealing to you personally?
“The human spirit is so great a thing that no man can express it; could we rightly comprehend the mind of man nothing would be impossible to us upon the earth.”- Paracelsus
Packaging and artwork are clearly as important to you as the music itself, and you have put out truly magnificent pieces of art for the eyes (and hands) to behold besides the music. This probably has a lot to do with your work as a graphic designer?
K: Yes, it is all part of the experience, but the music itself is the priority. I feel like our attention to the details starts within the music and then everything develops from there.
A: Kevin is a BEAST at that shit…
You also do music in the band Circle Of Eyes. How does this work differ in practice from that of Sutekh Hexen?
K: Circle of Eyes was an abstract Drone/Doom band that Anthony Bursese and I started around ’07/08, just to jam outlaid together. Often at this house in San Francisco that I was living at at the time. We released one record and a demo, and then the band sat dormant for five years, since we all shifted creative focus elsewhere as time went on. Circle of Eyes recently re-grouped and played a show here in Oakland, the new line-up consisted of Anthony (guitar), Jason (drums), and James (vocals); I had things that needed my attention, so was unable to play or attend, but I can assure you, that those guys are doing a great job of ushering that band into a new era!!
You perform live quite a lot, which involves (I’m guessing) improvised workings. Are the studio-recordings created in the same way, kinda improvising, or are they more thought-out before the actual recording sessions?
A: Both improvisation and composition are important. But for the most part it is composed. Both live and recorded. There usually is some room for improvisation in the live setting… But its mostly composed.
K: We write songs with the intent of being able to perform them live and develop the live sets with the flexibility for improvisation.
How would you compare a live-performance at some Metal-gig compared to for example something done at an art gallery, and which ones do you prefer the most?
A: They are both have their advantages and disadvantages. The more “metal” shows we tend to play are with bands that are more… adventurous? Shall we say? I will say I prefer a warehouse or underground club to a “Rock” club…
K: I enjoy both settings, to be honest. If its a good room, it’s a good room!
How do you see the typical Sutekh Hexen listener? Is he someone into other extreme musical styles as well, or someone who is interested especially in a more deeper and original kind of art like this? What kind of people usually come to your shows?
A: The typical Sutekh Hexen listeners are diverse.. Noise people, Metal People, Metal People, Hardcore kids, music nerds…
K: There is no stereotypical listener, which I feel is a incredible thought… it’s kind of a testament to the success of bridging gaps, drawing connections, and sustaining an audience.
Thank you for your time and answers! How do you see the future of Sutekh Hexen at this point?
A: Forging forward, leaving fucking destruction in our path.
K: Thanks, we appreciate the opportunity.