Yeah, that’s a bald-faced lie… but everything else in this interview is very sincere. I have rarely witnessed a band so consistently and convincingly channel the darkness like The Devil’s Blood. Their sophomore album sounds anything but, displaying maturity that belies their relatively short time together as a band. In ritualistic, crimson-soaked chaos, they have won over audiences over the last few years, with infernal winds beneath their leathery wings.
Selim Lemouchi (a.k.a. “SL”) is the driving force behind the young band, but he is no mere upstart. Through harrowing tribulation and self-discovery, Selim feels his work now serves a higher purpose. Read about this evolution, the doctrines of Satanism that interest him, what it means to express himself through music, and true feelings about egocentrism and occult rock poseurs.
Embracing Satanism was pivotal to creating the present version of your Self, and you often speak of abandoning a past that no longer worked for you. How did that version of your Self form?
Quite in the way that most personalities do form. The restrictive natures of our upbringing, schools, surroundings, deludes and fails our true inner Self. Ideally, we are all born with a soul which is ancient, since the time before time. I believe this world has the disgusting ability to remove people from that core, and chain them until there is not much left of their potential. People ask me who I was; I was one of those. I had tremendous difficulty finding a way to live that was in agreement with what I need my Self to be.
Which aspects of this former life do you feel you’ve retained, and what has been eradicated from your present sense of Self?
The need to please, to conform to certain dogmas or doctrines; my sense of wanting to belong to this herd; the fear of freedom, which I think is within most humans.
Like true freedom. Because so often you must, in some way, conform to societal doctrines just to be able to function; otherwise, you will be an outcast. Society will not allow everyone to do everything as please on a whim, all the time.
Look at the situation we have right now. It’s become commonplace for countries to call themselves dedicated to freedom or dedicated to the liberty of the individual, while at the same time finding clever ways of taking away liberties and denying personal potential and making them conform within the machine.
Who could you possibly be talking about? Let me think… [laughs]
[Laughs] Well, let me explain. It’s easy for Europeans to point fingers at America and criticize what’s going on there. But I think that is still proof that people are not looking at themselves, at their own situations. It’s always easy to look at a neighbor, but there’s always something to worry about back home. Things are happening on a global scale, and it’s not something any one culture or country is responsible for.
You talked about old souls earlier, and I’d like to come back to that. I was first introduced to the idea of “old” and “new” souls with the movie Waking Life back in ’99. How do you view this cycle of souls and reincarnation?
I haven’t seen the movie, so it’s hard to judge. But I believe there is a source from which we come—for me, that source is The Fire, or Satan, or The Opposer. That part of the energies present in the universe which are trying to undo the restrictive natures of the opposing powers, and I believe our soul stems from this. Now, I think there is a big difference between soul and personality, or ego even—and these are a separate nature.
Is there any particular doctrine of Satanism that you follow?
I try to be a doctrine-less as possible; I think there should be no law considering my personal beliefs. There are, of course, many schools in the Church of True Satanism that are interesting to me. For example, there is The Temple of The Black Light, the Dragon Rouge, The Order of The Nine Angles, and many others, smaller and larger, more hidden and less obvious than, say Aleister Crowley…
…or Anton Lavey?
[Laughs] Definitely not Anton. I believe Anton LaVey was much more of an ego-defined person, rather than a spiritually-defined person. For me, his views on what Satanism particularly is have nothing to do with any theistic or religious belief; more self-proclaiming, when the ego becomes more important than anything else, and not connected to any spiritual path.
Would you be interested in embracing a more pagan viewpoint or lifestyle?
To be specific, in the Satanic current, there are many… let’s say traditional, folklorist influences. For example, when you look at Temple of the Black Light, they have much to do with stuff like voodoo and other pagan ritualistic magical currents. Then the Dragon Rouge are exploring rune magic from Norway, and other forms of European witchcraft. S these, by themselves, are definitely part of what I practice. But when we look at what have become “pagan” rituals and religion—especially in conjunction with music and heavy metal—it is now commonplace to praise the gods of the Norwegian pantheon and so forth. In my eyes, these are simply right-hand mystics praising God, praising the positive force in the universe, the creation of life in its own image. And whether you call that Yahweh or Odin or whatever, it’s still barking up the same tree.
It sounds like you were not only inspired—but, dare I say, empowered by this new life path. Do you feel strengthened after the past few years of doing The Devil’s Blood?
Oh, absolutely. When we express what we are, and we’re honest with ourselves and the people we express to, there is no possibility of failure, only the personal growth we take with us on our desired path. And the success of the band—which is a very earthly thing, neither the goal nor the purpose in and of itself—is merely one of the effects of what I am doing. The effect is something I am extremely happy with, and want to follow through to its logical conclusion …or illogical conclusion (we’ll see where it ends). But at least I can say that the path I walk is my own, and that is empowering knowledge to know the things you’re doing carry a sense of duty and self-fulfillment.
And your sincerity really does shine through—from interviews to performances to songwriting. And throughout your work, you seem allured by entropy. How is energy, for you, created through music, and does any aspect feel especially draining? You used the word “express” earlier—which can mean many things, such as conveying emotion—but it can also mean to literally “squeeze” or “wring out”. Do you feel like that sometimes?
[Laughs] Definitely. I was writing the The Thousandfold Epicentre for about 11 months. Then after we did the American tour with Watain, we came back and immediately jumped into the rehearsing room and stayed there for about three months, then went in the studio to record for two months. It basically tallies up to about 15-16 months of nonstop work, and that’s daunting. You try to balance that with something called a social life (which I’m pretty sure I had at one point). And not to complain; it’s a very gratifying process. But it may be likened to a certain asceticism, where we damage ourselves with the clear knowledge that our wounds will become beautiful art. There is always pain, suffering, and sadness in any creation process, just as there is joy and love, and ultimately a measure of peace, knowing we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. So the “expression” — as you so immaculately put it — is, indeed, sometimes like being trapped under a vice and being squeezed dry until there’s nothing left. And I just realized maybe a few weeks ago, in between all the European and American promotional stuff, I’m sort of in a vacuum. There is no one speaking; “the voice” is momentarily silent. It’s a strange feeling when you’re like now I am actually doing nothing.
[Laughs] It’s hard, right? I do the same thing: if I’m not writing, I’m editing; between live deejaying/emceeing, I’m a live photographer; then conducting interviews and creating podcasts; all the while considering things for my website—it never ends! I’m rarely not doing something, and I imagine you feel the same, because you also helm most of the songwriting and creative process of The Devil’s Blood, too.
Yeah—music, lyrics, interviews, I have a hand in the artwork and design… but it’s good to be one’s own man, with no need to explain myself to some guy in an office. And I will never go back to that. This is the most valuable thing I could be doing with my time; no complaints whatsoever.
Yes, I should clarify to all reading: WE LOVE THIS. However much we quibble, this is the life we choose and love. And honestly, if you don’t love it, you’ve gotta get the fuck out. Especially with music. You are going to sacrifice, spend more time than you thought, put years in, probably not see immediate monetary returns for a while…
[Laughs] If you get anything back! At least not in the material sense. But all the money and finances are all a means to an end.
And you know, it’s all eventually going away someday. Which brings me to my next topic: death. You often speak of death, both in interviews and through your music. When was the first time you were exposed to the grim reality of death—your earliest memory of it—and what changed for you after that?
The earliest is too fake to put into words, but the first important one was the death of my grandmother. Rather mundane, I suppose, but it was someone I was very close to. It showed me the definitiveness of that experience, for her and for me. We grieve… well… we say we grieve people when they die, but I think it’s anything but; we pity ourselves for being left alone. And those emotions are completely understandable and respectable in a way, but something inside me said the only reason to cry was for my own pain.
I was just going to say that: the grieving process is for the living.
Yes, and it’s a very logical thing; I have nothing wrong with it. But I knew instinctively that my grandmother was a good person and she would be where her soul came from—wherever that may be—and for her that would be peace. For myself, being a person who does not abide by peace and does not wish it for himself, it would be a different story. And when I choose to make that step or when that choice is made for me (whichever comes first), then I’m sure there will be no reason to grieve me.
Let’s shift gears back to your music, and fellow like-minded bands you’ve mentioned such as Watain and Saturnian Temple. But on several levels, the band I most compare with The Devil’s Blood is Ghost. Do you ever get that parallel, and do you agree with it?
I’ve heard the comparison in reviews and interviews and whatnot, but I have to say, I do respect Ghost a lot. Out of all the bands that have come along in the last few years, they are the best songwriters. And there are such strong pop sensibilities that I really, really like.
Absolutely, so infectious.
When I heard those early Ghost demos, I thought What a cool way to combine Mercyful Fate with Fleetwood Mac! And it works really well. Having said that, I have no idea why Ghost does what it does.
As far as the mystery surrounding the band?
No, no—let me put it more accurately. And this doesn’t so much apply to Ghost specifically; rather, all these [similar] bands. Take for example Blood Ceremony or Jex Thoth or Ghost or however many there are at this point. I have no idea why they’re doing what they are doing. We are not really in contact, and I have no ideas if their cult expressions are genuine, or whether they’re done from a more theatrical point of view …or a gimmick. The reason I name bands like Watain and Saturnian Temple and Urfaust and Ofermod is not because of musical similarities, but a like-mindedness. Not that we agree on every metaphysical point…
Well, you don’t have to agree on everything all the time—you wouldn’t want that anyway. If you have everyone chattering the same story, you’ll never develop new ideas.
Yeah, you can’t have that. So for me, that’s where “brotherhood” or a “scene” comes from, and not because of superficial similarities in a musical style or production value.
I gotta admit, I often played The Devil’s Blood and Ghost back-to-back when I first heard them. I think it’s because you’re both being pushed by Metal Blade in the Americas, despite being on Ván Records and Rise Above Records in Europe. So I got the one-two punch and pretty much fell in love at the same time.
There is another band who also came out recently on Metal Blade called In Solitude, from Sweden. Just wanted to mention that [laughs].
[Laughs] Oh, yeah—they’re excellent! Love that band. What are your upcoming tour plans? I’ve loved seeing live videos, but want the real experience.
Well, I’m not allowed to say where/when/with whom…
Oh, man… really?
It has to with certain promotional aspects, and I don’t want to let the ghost out of the bottle just yet.
[Laughs] …okay, well could we get a timeframe at least, if not a lineup?
Most likely in the second half of April.
Alright, we’ll be on the lookout, hopefully for the Montréal area (that’s the best for the Champlain Valley here in Vermont).
Oh, and apart from that, we’ll also be doing the Maryland Deathfest—something we’re very much looking forward to. We’ve actually performed one of our special suited rituals right there at the Sonar in Baltimore with Pentagram back in 2009 on their reunion tour. They’re one of those bands where you feel honored just getting asked to play alongside them, and then experience a sense of awe that grows and grows. They are such talented, professional, and spiritually-guided people; an extremely good band with an excellent setlist. I’ve seen them six times—something I can’t say for any other band—and have always impressed.
That’s good to hear—I have never seen Pentagram and they’re a major name on my list. Well that’s a perfect note to end on, Selim! Thanks so much for the interview. The Devil’s Blood unleashes The Thousandfold Epicentre this January on Ván Records in Europe and Metal Blade in the Americas.