Category Archives: Label Interview

Interview with Tomas (Forever Plagued)

Music business today is not by any means easy, especially if one is specializing in underground music. However, in an ocean of record labels, very few actually live up to the demands of the game, which requires a lot of dedication, countless working hours with little pay, possibly a lot of complaining from the public, and every now and then actually putting out a record that sells. I’ve met Tomas through promoting my own band, and now having two releases out with his label, I had some questions for this dedicated man.

Hello Tomas! How has the autumn begun for you in Philadelphia?

Hot and heavy, well maybe not so much seasonally speaking but I am staying very well occupied.  Leaves are falling steadily as we speak, but the temperatures are still quite mild.

You’ve been into the underground for many years. How did it all start for you, and were there a lot of likeminded people in your area? Were you into Metal since a kid?

I don’t think there are a lot of like minded people in any place to be honest, I’ve always been a loner and although I’ve learned to take or leave people much easier over the years I still only hold a very few close friendships.  I was never really a “Metal Head” but enjoyed bands like Wasp, Slayer & Metallica at an early age, having heard them from an older sibling, who also got me in touch with some extreme metal comps that became the catalyst for what was to come.

How do you see the underground scenes in the States. Are they connected or does for example each state have it’s own scene which helps each other out? Are you active in your area?

Scenes to me are a joke, but to answer your question as best I can, It looks to me that its just people jerking each other off, in some pipe dream that it will drawl more people to the shows, when in reality, their self centeredness just overwhelms anything positive that could become as a result.  I don’t support any local scene or scene’s, my connection with Black Metal is through the spirit of the individual, not anything that could be attained or desired by exploitation of being.

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You have ran the label for many years, having a lot of releases, which each must have been a large project on it’s own. Have you ever thought about stopping? I know people who are in the record-selling business keep complaining all the time about competition and sales, but you seem to have a more healthy approach to it all?

No I have not really thought about stopping the label but anything is possible at any time, but FPR will most likely exist for quite some time longer. The reason I started the label is because I thought that there was a lot of incompetence and hence forth the bands were paying for that. Then I often get the feeling that there are a lot of Sheep masquerading as the Beast (666), and I get a sense of duty that I may do something about all that by creating an entity that opposes these unseen forces that make me nauseous and disgusted so here you have FPR.  I don’t mind competition and sales are a necessary evil of running a record label/business but I won’t cry or complain about things I can’t control, but focus on the things that keep us growing until we feel that is no longer necessary.

How do you see the sales in the States compared to Europe, is it the same or are there for example more people buying tapes perhaps in the States?

Well we sell more in the states but probably not by a huge margin. U.S. recently rose the prices of shipping overseas and I see a lot of complaints by European/overseas buyers due to these changes.  The U.S. currency is pretty weak but I guess the shipping costs are too great, especially considering most orders are quite small (2-3 CDs max on average). People who want tapes buy tapes, it seems to be more of a choice for certain people, of course there are exceptions but I am not sure if there is a difference between the U.S. and abroad.

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In these times when records don’t sell much, but labels nevertheless press albums quite a lot, do you think it’s normal for most labels to take quite large pressings and use albums as promotional and trading currency?

I guess it depends on the distributor because some labels have told me they sell lots of vinyl, but not so sure I’d call that a validation that the format is a big seller.  Labels generally take what they feel they can sell and of course that varies from vendor to vendor, the catch is most only want to trade, even if they can in fact sell the title, which to me is baffling, but I’m sure there is a reason behind it.

On what grounds do you usually choose a band on your label? Does it have to offer something unique (yet traditional) musically, or is the attitude of the members more important?

I must feel something special being delivered from the artist/band. Looking back on our roster this has been quite a vast variety of choices used in the final selection. I prefer the most dedicated to traditional black metal but have stepped outside that boundary on quite a few occasions. In all honesty there just aren’t that many bands going this direction these days that aren’t just another waste of existence. I must admit attitude to me seems much more important than the music, but they both must coexist as one. Sheep in Wolves clothes infest this genre in these strange days and I have no patience for imposters or pretenders who do not belong here.

Dealing in controversial and powerful music styles such as Black Metal must have it’s problems, in the form of outside critique. As I know you to be a man who acknowledges the various politically-incorrect sides of Black Metal being part of the culture, you must be used to responding to possible negative feedback?

Black metal IS controversy. If anyone cannot tolerate that, why the fuck are they here? Just another typical hypocrite human who we would love to see extinguished.

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You also play drums (very well I must say) in the band Blood Storm. Do you have problems in finding time for anything else besides the musical activities and the label?

Lets just say I keep a fully packed schedule.

How do you see the future of Black Metal and Death Metal. In Black Metal, we have seen in the last years a clear trend in all things Spiritual, Occult and Religious, as well as Bestial and Brutal, and perhaps a return to the early nineties in Death Metal. Do you have a vision of the next trends at this point?

I hate trends, I’ve seen every band create their Xasthur-clone 10 years ago, now everyone wants to sound like some Incantation hybrid, fuck all that shit. As far as what will be big next I think its quite obvious that between the two genres mentioned that Black Metal will come back in some form since Death Metal is the dominating genre at the moment, w/ Bestial being a close second. I’ll be here like I always am, relishing in hatred, listening to “In The Glare Of Burning Churches”, ignoring all this weak shit they call Black Metal nowadays.

Thanks for this interview Tomas! Any future plans you care to reveal at this point?

I’ll never ask anyone to support us and I certainly won’t beg anyone, fuck that. But I appreciate all those who “truly” support Forever Plagued Records on their own and don’t need to be force fed every fucking step of the way. With that said everyone who has made the conscious effort to “join us” on this journey through this cesspool knows where to find any future plans FPR has to offer.

Forever Plagued Records

Interview with Tyler Davis (The Ajna Offensive)

Ajna Offensive is a name that means to most intelligent underground Black Metal people quality releases. It is a name which could also mean to a person from some other background various kinds of Experimental Psychedelic music or Occult books. Tyler Davis is man known to care more about quality than quantity. Having done a lot of work in the underground (and sometimes above it as well), it is an honour to talk with him.

If I’ve understood correctly, you reside in the rural surroundings of Oregon? How is your daily life built around the activities of the label, and would you consider living in some bigger city, such as Portland perhaps, or another?

You are correct, I live rurally, 25 minutes from my post office. It’s idyllic.  My approach to life is to minimize superfluous human interaction, and the interactions I do have are done on my own terms. Sacrifices have been made, as is necessary for remote living. Such a set up allows me to be outside or inside working on the label as needs dictate. Different seasons exact different tolls, provide varied inspiration, and I’m adaptable as life demands. Portland’s a fine city as far as they go, but I’ve no interest in moving there. It’s vices are charming for a few days max, like every other city.

You also attend various kinds of events from book conferences to art-exhibitions. Do you travel a lot, and does promoting your releases require visibility of these sorts?

This year has found more travel than in years past, although not to larger events, but more for research and development (ie creative inspiration). The egregores that we flow through and endorse seldom surface with public events such as those mentioned above, mostly because we work with a disparate and motley cast and that typically means people scattered a great distance from one another.

As for promoting, we do little of it. We mostly rely upon unseen forces to promote our works. We’ve done well enough following those customs thus far, so I don’t see much changing in the future. We’ve no great interest in hob-nobbing with those whose opinions we don’t respect. We’ve co-opted as much as we intend to at this point, which is just enough to satisfy the needs of some of the bands we work with.

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In your past you had worked with the now quite known Stephen O’Malley, who had his hand in the creation of the label. Can you tell us a bit about that, and do you still work together with Stephen?

I met Stephen when my roommate from the Oakland days brought back a copy of Descent #1 from a trip to Seattle. I penned an insanely long letter and it was instant friendship. After helping with Descent, I wanted to start a record label and Stephen was instrumental in the developmental stages of that foray. After a while he got too busy and needed a paying/steady job, so had to take his skills elsewhere. We do not work together currently, but there is still a mutual respect and deep friendship.   Maybe someday I’ll dream up a project that he’ll want to manifest with Ajna.

During it’s 15 year career in releasing albums, Ajna has been a label of many flavours. I’ve gotten the impression your philosophy was diversity since the beginning, did this turn out to be a good move, or have you had your doubts along the way at some point?

I doubt everything I do. Always, even when it feels “right”. Granted, I don’t think TAO is as diverse as most labels, but I work with what I want to work with and that’s how it works.

You have released albums from a large group of one of the most respected names in underground Black Metal today, with titles from bands like Katharsis, Teitanblood, Mortuus, Funeral Mist, Watain etc. Have bands approached you or vice versa, in which case you seem to have a very good eye and ear for bands?

The ways bands and I come to working with each other depends upon the band. Much like everything else with the label, everything is one of a kind.

Your flattery is too much. My sales reports might beg to differ.

You also print books of various nature. Are these two aspects of the label equally important to you, when thinking of the time and money spent in releasing material?

I’d actually like to focus more on books than my time allows, but books are a larger investment with a whole different set of issues in terms of distribution and so forth.  Plus many of the books I’d like to publish need to be translated first and, being a Neanderthal—er, American—I only know one language. Any translators out there who want to step up and work for a pittance, shoot an email my way.

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I’d like for books and music to hold equal sway, but records are far easier to manifest in every way, so for the moment the scale tips in the favor of music releases.

Do you ever receive negative feedback due to your sometimes controversial releases or distributed material, or is the critique towards Ajna mostly positive?

I am not sure, exactly. I see very little feedback period and pretty much dislike the cheap democratic nature of the internet, which is like bad journalism 101 where no one has to have any legitimate foundation for casting claims into the e-verse, so I fail to engage or indulge in the insanity of it all.

Again, I work with what I appreciate and have an interest in. If some of those things rub people the wrong way, tough shit. It’s a big world with all kinds of ugliness and beauty entwined in a dance of death. I wouldn’t be where I am now, both figurative and literally, if I paid attention to those sorts of things.

What kind of styles do you sell the most when it comes to music; Black and Death Metal, Electronic Experimental music, the other more Psychedelic original stuff, or everything equally?

Black Metal. My customer base seems to be very rigid in what they purchase (from my site at least). The scope of my interest in music is vast, but my attempts to broaden the stylistic base of my arsenal has not played out very well over the duration of the label, so when I do release or stock music that is not of a Black Metal nature, the print runs or quantities imported are far less.

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Have you been into underground music (Black Metal for example) since a kid or a teenager, or was the more esoteric side of our musical culture discovered by you on a later period?

I grew up on KISS when they were a phenomenon, but by the age of 13 or so I was pursuing “the more esoteric side of our musical culture,” from that point on to this day.

As your release often have an Occult or Mythological theme, does Spirituality play an important role in your daily life? What Spiritual systems would you say you find most appealing and important to you personally?

Yes, spirituality plays an important role in my daily life. I find many systems to be of interest, but few have a direct bearing upon my own practices. I’ll refrain from naming names, but a few organizations and orders have seen me in attendance at their ceremonies, celebrations and otherwise.

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How about your own musical life, have you ever been involved in any musical projects, or are you perhaps currently active in making music? How about other kinds of art, do they play an important role in your personal creative life?

I’ve talentless musically. I have ideas, but have no idea of how to manifest them. I’m not a gear head either and have no technical skills with equipment, so until the right people with the right gear and the willingness to collaborate end up in the same place as myself for a few days or weeks, I’ll stick to manifesting the visions/sounds of others.

Thank you for this short interview Tyler! How do you see the future of Ajna right now?

Sure thing. The future of TAO purports to be quite busy! The cauldron boileth.

Ajna Offensive

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Interview with Mikko (Cursed Tapes)

The c-cassette is a format us born in the seventies or eighties had in our Walkmans and our double-deck Ghettoblasters, while the adults had the vinyls, mostly. Then came the CD, and at one point the tapes were tossed out. Some clever ones actually saved their tapes which are now considered to be highly valuable. The cassette, unlike the MiniDisc, has made a comeback, in the undergrounds of many music genres from Hip Hop to Electronic music to of course Punk and Metal. Mikko, the man behind the label and distro Cursed Tapes, specialising in Ambient and Harsh Electronics, sheds some light unto this culture, as well as his activities in making zines the old way; by print.

Greetings Mikko, how are things in Northern Finland?

Greetings. It’s getting pretty dark, gloomy and cold here, which means it’s the perfect time to drown oneself in dark atmospheric music.

When was the first time you came attracted to the format of cassette? Were there still old tapes lying around your home as a kid, and did you perhaps listen to these mysterious artifacts?

My parents and siblings had some tapes laying around, mostly some Eurotrance, Pop, Schlager, Popular Rock and humour stuff – and a dubbed tape with some The Smurf-songs! I was really into those. The first time I got around to listening to a CD I had problems making it stop at a certain track, like you can do with tapes. Luckily someone told me that it just plain can’t be done because the tracks can be skipped, hah.

However, I think my fascination with tapes started through purchasing black metal-demos, which eventually lead to buying more and more tapes and noticing the format’s positive qualities. I got into vinyl because I had to buy an album that wasn’t available in any other format, which obviously led to deeper interest, fasciation and admiration of the format later on. This might’ve been a partial reason for me initially buying some tapes, too.

When do you think did the cassette make it’s definite return to the world of underground music? Did it happen slowly or was there for example a certain year people started to release and buy a lot of tapes?

I have no idea, really. Communication between the individuals who operate within the music scene(s) is so much easier these days than it used to be, which means that no matter what someone does, it’ll soon start looking like a trend because the flood of information distorts one’s vision. Think about something like Occult Rock, or HNW (Harsh Noise Wall) or the mass of “Sunlight-studio”-style death metal; it all seems like a huge trend, or at least did a while ago. Despite it seeming like a big thing, I doubt one needs many fingers to go through all the biggest and best bands, or those who stick around for more than a couple of years and make more than two gigs and demo-releases. I think the same applies to tapes; although they seem like a big thing, I’m not sure if they really are. Lots of labels (even some bigger ones) make tape-pressings, but I doubt they sell big amounts – partial reason being that the cost/profit-ratio of (professionally manufactured) tapes is perhaps the worst of all the music formats, unless you have invested in good-quality gear which allows you to DIY, the dubbing and printing.

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I don’t think tapes really went away, people just eventually got fed up with their CDr’s breaking down without warning which prompted them to return to using/listening/releasing tapes. If you want to release a demo that you can sell cheaply and with minimal risk, CDr’s and tapes are pretty much your only option. I’m not sure if it’s the possibility of CDr’s lifespan being way too short or the format’s history of being mostly seen as a shittily executed slab for rubbish demo material, but the format doesn’t really have a lot of respect at the moment. They’re seen as the lazy alternative, whereas tapes take more effort and know-how.

Of course there’s the whole “scene-hopping” and “hip(ster)” aspect of them, as they seem cool and vintage to people who weren’t previously familiar with the format, and they think the possible wobbles, hissing etc. is a great thing because… Well, no matter. Stuff like that tends to fade away relatively fast, though. I’m tempted to mention mainstream Rock/Metal in this context, heh… Taming down a phenomenon to make it appeal to more people and all that.

VHS seems to enjoy a small comeback to appreciation too, to some (read: rather tiny) extent.

How do you see the cassette selling compared to Vinyl or CD? Sometimes it feels like labels might actually be selling more tapes than CD’s?

Again, I think this is a matter of the flood of information and what is considered “cool” in any scene at the given time. At the moment, I think it’s more appropriate and cool to brag about buying some überkvlt obscure demo-tape or some fancy limited double-LP box set (signed and with a bonus cum rag from the artist, obviously) than to simply say “I bought this killer CD which is not a limited edition or anything, but the music rules.” I’ve noticed many labels advertising stuff that hasn’t even been released yet, using words like “ultra-limited” and “obscure” to attract a crowd. Personally, I feel it’s a bit silly to advertise something as the best thing ever, and then making just a 100pcs pressing of it even if there’d clearly be demand for more, just to create some sort of a “cult” status or illusion of fame. I might be an idealist, but if you release something that you see as superior and that has demand, perhaps you might want to keep it available for more than a week.

The “rise of tapes” is partially related to collector mentality, wanting to feel special and/or simply wanting to feel priviledged and excited over hearing something that not a lot of others haven’t heard… Or to have something you can get big bucks for after selling it on Ebay or Discogs. I think tape releases tend to be published in way smaller editions than CDs, so it might appear that they sell more because there’s just less of them, which means that they’re gone quicker.

I think tape sales benefit from their generally low prices, and that they’re relatively cheap when it comes to postage costs – especially compared to vinyl. It’s a relatively cheap way to get to know bands, and it still has the whole visual and physical etc. experience there that browsing stuff on youtube lacks. I’m not sure if tape trading is more or less common these days than it’s with CDs, but I’d assume it’s one more thing that works in favour of tapes over vinyl.

Your label specialises mostly in Ambient and Noise music. When did you became fascinated with genres like these? Were you already into Electronic music growing up as a teenager?

In my youth (say, up to 12-13 years old perhaps?) I was mostly listening to what my siblings listened to, meaning Eurotrance, Schlager, Popular Punk Rock and the like. “Easy listening”-music in general. Then I was introduced to various kinds of metal music by friends, with bands like Slipknot, Ajattara, System Of A Down, Finntroll, Impaled Nazarene, Deicide, Marduk, Gloomy Grim, (The True) Mayhem… The list goes on. Back then none of my friends had no idea about the chaotic web people refer to as genres, so all of those bands were labeled under the same title: Hevi. It was a simpler time at the countryside for sure, hah!

I think I got into ambient through black metal and ethnic music, in addition to obvious aid of video game music and movie soundtracks. When I moved away from home when I was 16 I had plenty of time to look into all sorts of music online (this was 9 years ago, so the internet was already a big and common thing, although not as blown-out as today), and it didn’t take long until I started to look into more “weird” and experimental forms of music than the metal I was mostly listening to. I started a digital dark ambient-project around 17-18 to aid me in coping with some things I was going through and to express myself, which helped/made me push deeper.

Then, in 2009 (when I was 18-19), me and a friend started the webzine Damned By Light which covered all sorts of music in the form of reviews and interviews. The promos I received and the friends I made during those five years the webzine was active certainly helped me to dig deeper into the realms of music, both experimental and other sorts.

Noise, Harsh Noise, Musique concrete and Power Electronics are something I’ve been looking into more and more during the past few years. The freedom of expression and strong minds (with a strong vision) of those circles is simply astounding at it greatly speaks to me. I guess the “extremity” of Noise spoke to me when I was younger, and to a certain extent it still does, but it goes much deeper than that… but those things are complicated to explain, aside of “well, I think this is some great noise,” heh. At best, it holds purifying and enlightening qualities for me.

Of course there are other things, such as a certain outcast-mentality and things related to religion and ideologies that have affected this “journey,” but I think my answers are too long as it is so let’s not go there, heh!

You also like other styles of music such as Black Metal and Punk. How would you compare these more organic music forms and their scenes (the people involved in them) to the Electronic scenes, are there many similarities or are they fundamentally quite different?

That is a big and complicated question. Naturally, with these forms of music being more easily accessible these days than ever, there are a lot of people involved in the scenes who don’t uphold their general traditions nor live their mindsets nor ideologies in any way (Christian Black Metal bands being a nasty example), so speaking of any scene as a whole doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s also a partial reason for the blending of these genres, such as the whole “Blackened Crust”-thing which appeared to be hip a while ago, same as “Black Noise.”

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Gigs tend to be more advertised today thanks to social medias, so nowadays there’s a bigger chance of someone walking to a noise-gig than earlier; you don’t have to be “in the circles” anymore to end up at those. Seeing metalheads at a noise gig or punks at a black metal gig is pretty usual.

I think that the more “extreme” forms of music attract “extreme” minds and thoughts, so in a sense there are some similarities behind the approaches of these genres you mentioned – and at least punk and black metal most often are viewed as music with a default ideologic charge. One could also say that these bands’  and their followers’ ideologies tend to manifest in other ways than just listening/playing music, too? Things get opposed, crushed and burned, and occasionally someone bleeds. I guess you could count that as a similarity.

You are also making a fanzine called Sairaus the old school way, by hand. Back in the nineties this was the only way to work, but on this age of e-magazines, do you see a raising demand for the printed material?

Well, the zine’s layout is done on a computer, so it’s not that oldschool I guess? The pages are copied on black-and-white and I staple the zines together by hand though, so I guess that’s something, hah!

There are a lot of digital magazines, blogs and whatnot, but too many of them tend to be either way too low-quality and un-dedicated, or simply around for just a while after they’re deleted from existence. There have been a lot of instances when I’ve wanted to read an online interview, only to find out that it’s gone because the blog/webzine has been deleted. Paper zines offer something that you know will stay around, and something you can easily return to later on.

Naturally, it’s also more appealing to those who prefer the physical format over digital mp3-albums and so on, too. They’re a more holistic and visual experience, at least if they’re done by dedicated people.

Where do you get the ideas for the material in your zines, and the stuff you put out with your label? Do people contact you or vice versa?

Sometimes people contact me, and sometimes I contact them – and sometimes things happen and sometimes they don’t, heh. It varies a lot.

Music is a passion and a way of life for me, so the ideas come naturally: they represent my interests and my way of doing things. In general, if I contact a band about doing a manifest or an interview for the zine, it means that I’d like to know more about them, and they represent something that is worth more attention in my opinion. Of course, I tend to assume these bands have more to say and offer than just “I am a guitarist, so I play the guitar,” heh.

As for the label, I tend to release music that I respect, can relate to in one way or another, and see as something worth promoting and releasing under the banner of Cursed Tapes. It must be something that intriques me, and something that I’d obviously buy myself if someone else released it. Of course things like “will this fit to my idea what CT is about” and “can I find the proper audience for this” need to be considered, along with coming up with a proper dubbing amount that isn’t too small or large. I prefer to keep the tapes available, so if something sells out and the band agrees, a second pressing is most likely planned. At the moment I’m waiting for one re-press to arrive from the dubbing plant, and another tape should be repressed later on… but nothing is set in stone yet.

The Petrichor-album was published on CD (co-released with the band) because I felt that it wouldn’t sound right on tape. I’ve been planning on releasing one more CD from one noise-project, but that’s something that won’t likely happen anytime soon. However, tapes are obviously the label’s main focus.

In short, this is what I want to do, and something that I feel is important to me.

Being highly interested in music, do you have any musical projects yourself?

I am involved in some projects, both by myself and as collaborations, but it’s all very small-scale.

Thank you for this interview! What are your plans for the future of your label and your zine?

Thank you for your interest! Sairaus #3 is nearly complete, and hopefully out next month. We’ll see. I’m waiting for two tapes from the dubbing plant at the moment (one re-press and one new Drone/Industrial-EP), and two more releases are almost ready to be dubbed. I’ve been slowly planning on compiling a second compilation tape too, but we’ll see what happens.

Cursed Tapes

Sairaus-zine

Interview with Robert Brockmann (Naturmacht Productions)

Robert is a musician and a label owner I met through promoting my own band, and we starting talking about various things, life in general, and found we have much in common. Having done a lot of work in the Metal underground releasing many quality records, and playing in a few interesting bands himself, I wanted to chat with him a bit more.

Hello Robert, how has the autumn started for you in Germany? Keeping busy with your studies, label and bands I’m sure?

Hi Antti, autumn is nice so far, I love this season very much! Especially the foggy and rainy days. Aye being busy as always, making decisions and so on. But life is good.

Your label has released a lot of quality albums in a few years, and you also have a side label specialising in more Doomier stuff. Is this really as time-consuming as one might imagine? Do you ever regret taking too much projects into your hands, or do you deal with releases one at a time?

Yes label work is demanding very much time, at least if you want to do it right and professionally. Already the promotion is an intensive job as you nowadays must be all the time available, online and active at social media platforms. Luckily the behind the scene stuff is now already operating well and effective, so it is not stressful at least. Sometimes I wonder if I got too much, but then also many projects or bands just stop to work and everything works out anyway. But at the moment I am not really signing any new bands at all, especially not black metal, as I got enough for now in this genre. And basically I set dates when a band is ready with the material, so its releasing piece by piece with 2 release max per date.

Your releases always have a very classy, atmospheric and professional visual side. How important do you see the visual aesthetics of a band in comparison with the music itself? Does all the visual planning come easily out of you or do you spend a lot of time with it?

Well it goes mostly easily from hand as the bands deliver always great visual art too, so putting everything together is not hard at all. The artwork is as essential as the music itself. Music and artwork are one at the end and must merge and catch the attention of the customers of course. Especially nowadays with those masses of bands and labels.

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As physical records don’t sell much these days, I imagine you focus more on quality than quantity when deciding about pressings etc. How important do you see digital sharing and perhaps even exclusively digital releases compared to physical releases?

I like CDs and always will and NP/RWE will always be a CD Label, for me CD is what for many is Vinyl nowadays. Digital sharing is very important though. Today the customers want to know what they buy. I think very less do blind shopping these days just because of a great cover or something. And for us labels it is a very cheap and easy way to earn money. I can not understand the whining of many labels. The market is changing aye, but you got nearly zero costs with digital stuff, no shipping and so on. And yet people will also buy physical stuff in the future. At the moment digital is new and exciting, but it can not replace a solid physical product, which you can touch and where you can browse through the booklet or simply watch the cover art while listening. And the people will recognise that. It is the same with books. First they feared people would switch to e-books, now the book market is again growing. Because it is not the same and you can not fill shelfs with e-books or digital releases. To sum it up, for me digital releases are a nice addition and they are practical for compilations and stuff but it is not replacing the CD in any way.

Your own band Lebensnacht has a very primitive yet beautiful nineties Black Metal style approach to melancholic visions of life, death and nature. I’m guessing it’s not hard for you to find inspiration for your art in you surroundings? Do you see yourself as a melancholic and perhaps even pessimistic person, or is this style of music a way of releasing negative energies from your consciousness?

An interesting question! I am melancholic indeed. For me melancholy is one of the purest and greatest emotions a human can have, it is so deep and somehow rooted, you as a Finn probably know what I mean. Inspiration is easy to find indeed, also the negative ones of course, but I am a realist rather than pessimist and normally a happy person. I say, everything has two sides and so also good ones. You can take from every shit thing also a good one, especially if you think in bigger terms than just the here and now. Related to that: Where is light is also darkness. The dark things in our universe always attracted me as we live in the light and tend to shut down the darkness and bad feelings. But I think they are as important as the nice things. One needs the other and you can just fully enjoy and understand life if you face all of them.

You’ve done this project for a few years now, and new album is coming out soon. Is this project something you devote a lot of time to, compared to other activities in your life?

Well, it is a big part and it is my musical baby, but I am a very balanced person and I try to balance also my hobbies and general activities, of which I got much, because too much is never good in anything.

Lebensnacht features titles in Finnish, as you share your life with a Finnish girl. How do the Finnish and German personalities meet? Do you share your individual art together in the form of mutual projects?

My lady is more the Death Metal, melodic Metal type (no surprise) but she also likes Black Metal, but not so much the Lebensnacht style unfortunately. But I am planning to “use” her as a guest singer on a future release with Finnish lyrics of course. I also learn Finnish now, so maybe in 5 years I can actually write Finnish lyrics myself.

You also play in the band Sado Sathanas, which has a more Satanic and Occult approach to Black Metal. How do you see these bands compared to each other? How has the response been so far regarding the new material?

They are both atmospheric black metal bands with an old school touch, but from the lyrical concept Lebensnacht deals with Nature mostly and Sado Sathanas with Occult and mystic things. I think they are bot unique in their own way. Sado Sathanas is more complex though. The response is very positive so far, also at the live gigs. I think we are able to deliver the music from the album one to one to the stage and the people like the mix between modern atmospheric and old school Black Metal.

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You’ve also played live with a few bands. Do you enjoy the live performances, or playing at a rehearsal place, or do you prefer working on you own?

Actually Sado Sathanas is my first live band. I come from the village where I was the only metal guy and in my school we were like 3. So making a band was not really possible as we also had different tastes. I like both, solo project and the band experience, especially if you have great guys around you like at Sado Sathanas and playing live is really fun once you get used to be stared by people. It has its very own magic.

Germany as a country has a lot of people and bands. Are there clearly certain perhaps geographically or ideologically formed scenes in Germany, whom pretty much stick to themselves, or is the spirit of underground Metal strong and soldiery there?

Hard to say for whole Germany from my side. I just know the local “scene” which is not very strong and more parted geographically than “ideologically”. You do have some areas where there is more Black Metal and then others with more Death Metal but at the end it is mixed and kind of open. We have quite much festivals in our county Saxony with mixed genres and with the clubs it is the same. But at the end I am not really a member of any scene or group here. At the end I have more global connections than local because of the label.

Are you into other styles of music besides Metal? Were you always an metal kid, since a child, or did this come about later in your teens?

Nope, I am or better was a classical Metal teen. Started with Linkin Park when I was 15. Before I listened to everything coming in the radio, also Techno and stuff. But I still listen to other music like Classic, Rock, Medieval music and Folk, also all this cool psychedelic stuff like Chelsea Wolf or Darkher is something I like. Tenhi is one of the best bands I know. When it is dark, melancholic and deep it is something for me.

What can you tell me about your views on spirituality and these typical themes in Black Metal such as Satanism and Occultism? Do they serve you only as philosophical metaphors, or is there something deeper there for you in you personal daily life?

Pretty much the first when it comes to Occultism and Satanism. In fact, I am not a big fan of super true Satanism. Actually I do not like extreme things in any way. I find those “true” satanists as ridiculous as Islamists for example, or Nazis. But I love occult stuff as mentioned above, it is also part of this universe. But really deep spirituality I feel when I am alone in the nature, that is why I love Finland for example so much. There I feel free and being really a part of something big and amazing. Hard to describe but my soul connects with everything around me then. A great and intensive feeling. And I do not feel like this in cities or in urban areas at all.

Thanks for this interview my friend! What are your future plans?

I really thank you buddy. Excellent questions you asked! Well, making a fourth Lebensnacht -album, a third Sado Sathanas -album, and grow with the label and continue my way of balance and real life.

All the best for your zine!

Naturmacht Productions

Interview with Susanne Sinmara (Destructive Music)

Susanne Sinmara, an Austrian living in London, is the editor in chief of the web-zine Destructive Music, dealing in Black Metal, Doom, Folk and other styles of music. She also plays drums in a couple of bands. Besides this she has been active in the contemporary pagan scenes, as well as thriving to be as self-sufficient as possible, growing her own food and studying farming and animal husbandry. Always interesting to have a conversation with a fascinating person.

Hello Susanne! How’s the autumn weather in London?

Hello! It’s getting rather cold and wet, after a very dry September – no more blackberries to forage in the forest, but there’ll be other fruits and plants I can forage. My plants in my garden are quite happy about the rain though!

I know you are working on being self-sustaining when it comes to basic living, growing your own food and making your own daily products out of the many things you farm. Still, living in the urban area of London, one needs to work in order to pay the rent (and to avoid collecting the awkward unemployment check)?

Ah, indeed – having all these little projects going, drumming and travelling to other countries isn’t cheap. I’m working in an office – nothing special, but it pays the bills. I’ve been lucky enough to have a good education and the skills for a decently paid office job, although the ultimate goal is buying a small farm with my boyfriend.

Are you determined to live one day at your own farm, free from the treadmills of modern society, or do you think this is most likely just another individual utopia, at least in England?

The way I see it, farming, self sufficiency and going back to basics is the future. The current Western market system isn’t working, it’s collapsing, and I certainly don’t want to be caught up in that. Us Westerners have been living in such luxury, and the rest of the world wants to have their share of that – but imagine Asia and Africa all trying to have the same lifestyle as we have. Can’t blame them for this, of course. The earth doesn’t have the resources to cope with such a high demand. Chandran Nair wrote a great book about this topic, Consumptionistics.

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We want to breed goats, sheep and pigs, and have a permaculture on our farm. There’s so much to learn! I’ve been raised on home grown vegetables and fruit, and have experience in growing my own veg and fruit to a certain extent for quite some time. Baking bread by hand, learning how to preserve and ferment vegetables, how to make cheese, make mead, sew clothes, work leather – all things I learnt and regularly do. Saves a lot of money as well. The one thing I do want to keep doing is drumming and making music, so I will need to keep the internet…

Being originally from Austria, did you find it difficult at first to adjust to the societal ways of the UK? And have you become one with the English character, or do you feel like your Austrian personality will never completely understand the British ways of mind?

There were a few hiccups in the beginning – moving from a fairly rural area into London was quite a culture shock. I missed the mountains around me. London is different to the rest of the UK – no one cares what you do, how you look like, and if something happens on the tube, people just look away. The famous British stiff upper lip! The countryside is like Austria – people greet you when you’re walking in the forest, and it’s generally more friendly. Austria has its advantages and disadvantages – the people can be very backwards, especially in the rural areas. The metal scene is pretty good though! Austrians and British people have fairly similar characteristics: the black humour, the constant moaning. These days I feel half a Londoner, half Austrian. I enjoy going back to Austria, going hiking in the alps. I miss skiing, haven’t raced down a ski slope for 10 years!

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If I’ve understood correctly, you find solace and strength in the ways and customs of old, like many people interested in Black Metal and Folk music often do. You also visit Pagan Festivals. How do the English Pagan communities differ from Austrian ones?

In a way old customs fascinate me, and to a certain extent I celebrate some customs and fests – winter and summer solstice, Samhain, summer harvest and so on – however we live in the here and now, and not in the past. We learn from the past, and we move on. Mankind is ever changing and expanding, sadly mostly to the worse these days. This one of the reasons why I want to buy a small farm and live as self sufficient as possible, and do my little bit to help nature. I dabbled with the London Pagan scene a little bit and met some interesting characters, but generally found it too closed and narrow minded. As with all scenes there’s a lot of posing and bitching. Back in Austria I had a few pagan friends and we celebrated together a few times, but we were all too diverse to really get on with each other. I’m really not into the ‘waving hands into the air and sing songs’ Wiccan rituals. Each to their own.

Do you practice certain kind of Pagan-customs, or are you eclectic in that sense? Do you feel a sort of a Pan-European Paganism could triumph over the modern hypocritical so-called Christian values, or do you think local Paganism will just turn into nationalism and the quarrelling will continue on that level as well?

They recently recognised Druidism as a religion in the UK, which is fantastic, and a step forward, however Paganism will always be a niche-religion due to the many sub-groups. It’s more an umbrella term anyway. I’m curious how spirituality will evolve over the next decades, it’s hard to predict of course.

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Being involved in the world of Black Metal have you had your “Satanic” phase at some point, or have you been strictly into Paganism since you started to question the modern ways? Or are you perhaps constantly fascinated by the idea of Christianity’s Adversarial Angel?

I’ve never been interested in Satanism, never been interested in any kind of structured organised religion – be it magickal orders, Wicca or other organised religions. I find it much more beneficial to work on my own – obviously group dynamics have a much different dynamics for magickal purposes, but if you’re not working with people that are pretty much like yourself, you get energies in the group dynamics that I wouldn’t want. I draw my energy from nature and am eternally grateful for what nature and earth gives me. This also means I try to give back as much as possible and care for the environment.

Trees, forests, plants, stones – if that makes me a bloody hippie, then so be it. As a human you can’t just take take take, you have to give as well to keep the balance. Peter Carroll’s Liber Kaos is a book that influenced me and has opened my eyes. I’d consider myself a chaos magickian, albeit not quite what the common description is. Like with music I don’t limit myself to one system – I pick and chose what works best for me. Runes, Buddhism, Hinduism, North American Indians, Germanic teachings, Egyptology, Crowley, Shamanism, Chakras, healing stones and herbs, all that and more have influenced me in one way or another. In the end all you need is your mind. Willpower, Discipline and an open, yet sceptic mind. There’s so much knowledge out there!

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Have you always been into metal, or did you have your punk- or goth-periods at some point growing up (perhaps still have)? What other styles of music interest you and give you the right feelings?

My father had a 50ies jukebox with Suzie Quatro, Deep Purple, The Sweet and so on, that got me interested in rock as a tiny kid, moving on to glam rock/metal when I was 10. Then I got into punk in my early teens, moved on to black metal in 1991/1992 when I was 14 (as well as being a massive Manowar fan). Up until I was 21 I didn’t like any electronic music, until a friend introduced me to EBM, and started to explore the goth side – Industrial, goth rock, dark wave, 80ies. Then in my early 30ies I discovered folk and neofolk, as well as world music – Indian music, north European folk etc. Every music genre has some good acts, even hip hop or rap. It’s silly to limit yourself to one particular kind of music, why would anybody do that? Open your mind.

Besides being the editor in chief of a busy webzine, you also play in a couple of bands. How do you find time for all of this?

It helps having good organisational skills, a diary and commitment. I cram an hour of working out every morning after I get up (at 5.45am…) into each day, and I sleep 7 ½ hours for a good nights rest. I give myself some time to unwind by watching documentaries, reading and long walks in the forest.

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You share your daily life with a talented musician, with quite similar tastes and ways of life, am I correct? Do you give each other musical ideas and inspirations, or do you keep your own projects at different rooms of the flat so to speak?

Indeed, we’re both drummers in several bands, although the musical spectrum varies quite a bit – mine is raw black metal, atmospheric black metal and a folk/shamanic influenced extreme metal band (think Dordeduh, Halo Manash, Wardruna, Primordial), and he is doing atmospheric post black metal, 70ies psychedelic rock/doom, death metal and sea shanties. We don’t really influence each other, but it’s a constant back and forwards with bands we discover to check out. The second bedroom is full of drum equipment, percussion instruments and other instruments.

He does influence my cooking though, only if someone appreciates the food I make I’m able to be creative in the kitchen! We try new foods from all over the world and I love to concoct new dishes.

As this year is at it’s autumn months, do you already have big plans for the year 2015, or do you take your days one at a time?

The only big thing I planned for next year is a 2 week trip to Iceland, hopefully exploring South Iceland by bicycle. Then there are a few gigs lined up for Mørktår and hopefully Thurs too. I try to go to some festivals abroad too, Sommersonnwend in Austria (summer solstice festival in the Salzburg alps). Generally I prefer not to plan too much ahead and be spontaneous, because it’ll never go as planned anyway. Just enjoy the ride, life’s too short to worry. As a Buddhist once told me: ‘If there’s something in your life that worries you, but you can’t do anything about it, just drop it like stone’.

Thank you for this awesome little chat, please let us know where to find you and your work!

The Destructive Music website is www.destructive-music.com

Mørktår is www.facebook.com/morktarofficial

Interview with Valder (Eternal Death Records)

Valder is the man behind the compelling new label Eternal Death, focusing mostly on raw and primitive black metal, with an intelligent and artistic feeling. He is also involved in bands like One Master, Fatalism, and Lustrum. Being on his label with one of my bands, I wanted to ask him a few questions about the state of underground metal music in the US today, as well as to get to know the man a bit better.

You live in the North-East part of the US, which doesn’t differ much from the weather or nature of Scandinavia. Do you find these surroundings and area to be the kind where you most enjoy your life?

I definitely have a strong affinity for the north-east US – the landscapes, the mountains, the four seasons, the curmudgeonly attitudes… I lived in the southern US for a few years during college and definitely missed living in New England and moved back as soon as I finished. I am slowly moving my life up to the heart of the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. Nothing beats living up there.

Have you always been into heavy music, since childhood, or did this come about later in your teens? Was it hard to find like-minded people where you grew up?

The first tape I ever bought was “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns ‘N Roses when I was 10. When I was a young kid and teenager I mostly listened to punk music, but also would stay up to watch Headbanger’s Ball and had some interest in metal. The area I grew up in had a strong punk / hardcore scene so there were always gigs going on and new bands coming up, but there wasn’t really any strong underground proper metal scene I was connected to.

I didn’t get into black metal until I was 19. Summer of 1998, first black metal release I bought was the “Firestarter” comp. put out by the old Century Black subdivision of Century Media. I saw it at a local record shop, it was only like $6 or $7 and looked very interesting (has an actual match in the jewel case) so I decided to pick it up. The first track is “Thus Spake the Nightspirit” and it totally floored me – I hadn’t heard anything like that before. It introduced me to a lot of really good bands. Immediately after picking up that comp I got the Emperor “Wrath of the Tyrant/self-titled” re-release and Ulver “Nattens Madrigal.” A friend of mine in college had independently gotten into black metal that summer so when I got back to school he introduced me to Storm of the Lights Bane, Blizzard Beasts, Filosofem, Transylvanian Hunger…

Hearing all of these great 2nd wave bands definitely was a spark for me. It took a few years, but I slowly lost interest in most punk music and started listening largely to metal, and mostly black metal at that.

Do you think the atmospheres of your surroundings have something to do with becoming fascinated with musical styles such as black metal? Have you been mostly intrigued by black metal, or have you at the dame time been into other extreme musical styles as well?

The cold attitudes and (at times) landscapes/weather of the north-east US definitely mesh well with the atmosphere of proper black metal and other forms of dark music. For instance, being on top of a 4,000 ft peak in the White Mountains in the winter can be quite a remote, cold, grim, and unforgiving place.

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I think my interest in black metal comes from two angles – one is the music and the other is the aesthetics, and I would say they are both equally compelling. I actually had a discussion with some friends about this recently and we all agreed that black metal is one of the forms of music where the aesthetics / atmosphere are just as (if not more) important that the actual music.

In my opinion, when black metal is done the right way, it is founded on feelings of estrangement and the need to create your own world. I’ve always been someone who felt like an outcast. I’ve never been able to escape the feeling of being disconnected from others. I go through binges and purges of social activity, but I think any one who really knows me would say I’m, at heart, an anti-social person. The Left Hand Path ideology of (what I consider to be) true black metal I find to be compelling because it is based on the need focus inward and create your own values and world rather than trying to mindlessly accept something someone else has created.

Lately, I’ve actually been listen to a lot of music that wouldn’t normally be associated with metal at all – what you could call retro-electro, bands like Gost, Perturbator, Carptenter Brut.  What I find to be interesting about these bands is that they play melancholic / dark music delivered in a very clean, basically bubble-gum way. The contrast of feelings in one package is what I find to be compelling.

Right now, I would say black metal makes up a majority of what I listen to, but I also listen to my fair share of neo-folk, death metal, tradish metal/hard rock, darkwave/goth, and some d-beat/crust punk.

Your oldest band active at the moment – One Master – released it’s first demo about twelve years ago. Could we say this band is your most precious child in a sense?

One Master is the band I put the most effort and heart into. If a band could be considered a child, I’d say its my most prized son…

Your bands have a very eerie occult yet sophisticated artistic feel to them, yet they perform quite primitive and raw stuff. Do you think this is the most powerful way to bring visions, emotions and states of mind across, or is this only because you like to perform music like this?

I’d say its a combination of all of that.  I like the contrast of music with an epic base to it but delivered in a raw, barbaric way.  Songwriting for me is a slow and meticulous process and the atmosphere created by a riff or a melody is really what decides whether it makes its way into a song.

Do the occult philosophies and arts play an important role in your daily life, and do you feel you have always been interested in things such as mythology, symbols, psychology, etc.?

Occultism plays a role in how I view myself and try to arrange things in my life. I see it as a way to understand the world and yourself rather than a playbook of words you need to read to get something to come out of an old bronze cauldron. I have come to understand how certain symbols, words, smells, sounds, etc. affect me and the people around me. With that understanding, you can have more power over your life and control your surroundings to achieve desired results. I read occult texts (Agrippa, Crowley, Levi to name some) and pick from them things I can use in my life in my own personal way – I don’t view them as some kind of objective authority that I must follow. I’ve always had an interest in mythology (when I was younger most compelling to me was the mythological figure Satan – as portrayed by Milton and Blake especially – and also Norse mythology), but my interest has grown as I’ve gotten older and been more accepting of the inherently irrational aspects of existence.

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Where did the decision to form a label come from. Were you active in the underground before that, trading records and so on?

To be honest, the main reason I decided to start a label was to have a stable way to release records from my own bands. During the first incarnation of One Master, I found some labels who expressed interest in putting out our stuff but nothing ever came through. I ended up just self-releasing all of our records.

When we re-started in 2012 after a bit of a hiatus, I didn’t want to go through the situation again of having material but no one to put it out, so I decided to just start my own label.  My friend Sal from Peasant Magik had done re-releases of our full lengths on tape and vinyl and did a split tape for us, but he had slowed down the label by the time we started being a functioning band again.  When I made the final decision to start a label, I first was focused on bands who were local and then started to slowly branch out when people heard of the label.

Before starting the label I had been trading records and tapes, so I had some experience in getting in touch with underground labels.

You have gotten a lot of good press lately, with your releases being featured at very visible places online. Do you think this online exposure is more important these days than the older version of just releasing good records, playing gigs, and waiting the word to spread on the streets?

I think both online press and traditional word of mouth are important as they both reach different crowds of people. Younger people tend to use the online stuff (or at least that’s what I think….?) and more older / diehards tend to pick up stuff from a combination of that and traditional word of mouth type stuff.  Releasing good record after good record will eventually build up interest in a label. There’s just a critical mass of interest that a label needs to reach where people give a new release a chance or a look because they trust the taste of the label – I’m hoping to reach that level at some point.

Have you seen any increase in your sales, or is the business slow and steady as it is mostly dealing with physical releases these days?

Sales fluctuate – after a review comes out, an interview is published, or an advert gets sent out I’ll often get a small batch of orders. But I have noticed a slowly but surely increasing frequency of orders even absent any particular review or feature or whatever. I knew that starting an underground label was not a money making endeavor, but if I can get near to breaking even and keep putting out new releases with money from the label, I’ll be satisfied.

What are your plans for the future, regarding the label. Do you work on the bands signed right now to be more exposed, or are you interested in adding more interesting artists to the roster?

I’m trying to not spread myself too thin and take things slow. If you put out too many releases at the same time, its hard to give them the care they need and people also get overloaded with one label putting out too much stuff at once. I’ve got a few releases in the pipeline (The Meads of Asphodel/Tjolgtjar split 12”, One Master full length, Haxen full length, TKNKNTJ full length, One Master/Sangus split 12”) and will probably try to slow down on taking new projects until the existing ones being planned come out. I like all of the bands I’ve worked with and am interested in working with them again. I’m open to working with new bands as well, but unfortunately a label has to be a bit selective in what they put out because there’s only so much $$ available and so much time.

My ultimate goal is do most releases on vinyl, but it is a tricky thing – its expensive to press and real expensive to ship, especially overseas. I have a few vinyl releases in the queue and as long as I don’t lose my shirt on them, will be planning on doing more in the future.

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How about your own bands? Does the label take most of your time from musical work, or have you made a commitment to keep the band activity working full speed as well, playing gigs and so on?

It can be difficult trying to balance the label with being in three bands. One Master rehearses 2 hours away from where I live so it can take up a lot of time. Because of different schedules of everyone involved, we’ve had to spread out recording our new full length over several sessions.  Its slowly coming together and right now I am very pleased with the progress we’ve made. We’ve also got plans for two split releases (7” w/Satanic Dystophia and 12” w/Sangus) so I’ve been trying to finish up writing and we’re going to try to nail down a cover.

Lustrum and Fatalism rehearse less often, but both bands are trying to get things moving forward.  Fatalism is working on a Joy Division cover for a comp. release that should be quite interesting.  We’re also writing new material and trying to book our first show. Because we don’t really fit into any specific music genre, its hard to find the right gig to play.

Lustrum took a long hiatus but we’re finally back together, rehearsing as a 3-piece. It looks like someone is interested in putting out a live tape, and we tentatively have some gigs being scheduled in early 2015. Looking to really channel the spirit of Cronos circa-1984 in these gigs…

Thank you very much for this interview! Any last words?

“Nobody believes in anything any more and yet everybody swallows everything they are told wholesale.” – JK Huysmans, La Bas

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