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An Interview With J.K. of La Torture des Ténèbres

Mysteriousness in black metal is nothing new. Hell, I couldn’t tell you how many bands I’ve interviewed who preferred to stay completely anonymous. It’s always a bit strange writing interview questions without knowing anything about who I’m talking to – or even how many people may be answering them.

I mention this not because Ottawa’s La Torture des Ténèbres is one of those completely anonymous bands. In fact, J.K. is on at least one social media platform – though I’m not telling you which one, or her full name. Yet at the same time, both she and her band are still so fucking inscrutable that I’d likely find it frustrating if they weren’t also so fucking good. I will say this, though – I’m convinced that the photo featured on LTDT’s Metal Archives and Bandcamp pages isn’t really her. I’ve had that suspicion for a while, actually, but given how little she seems to reveal in her responses here, I have a hard time believing that she’d put a clear photo of her face on the Internet.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. To call the approach La Torture des Ténèbres takes to black metal ‘raw’ is kind of like saying that a durian fruit has a distinctive aroma – technically true, but a serious understatement. LTDT’s music–and I mean this as a compliment, because I fucking adore this band–is physically painful to listen to. It’s probably the closest one can get to pure white noise while still retaining some elements that can be recognized as ‘music.’ A shrill guitar could almost be called melodic in comparison to the squalls of static. An incessant hi-hat trying to punch through the din. It’s certainly not for everybody, and if pressed to explain in concrete terms why I find it so compelling, I don’t think I can. And besides, LTDT’s music doesn’t really exist in any concrete sort of way.

Here’s my best shot at explaining it: La Torture des Ténèbres is raw emotion distilled into sound. The band’s music moves me on such a primal level that I’m not sure there’s a word for it – something that exists beyond language’s ability to define. All I know is that after I finish listening to one of their albums, I’m emotionally spent. Like I’d just spent the duration having a chest-clutching, can’t-catch-my-breath anxiety attack, or an extended one of those racking, full-body cries where your ribs hurt for two days afterwards. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no higher possible form of praise.

La Torture des Ténèbres’ latest offering is The Gods Themselves, a split with Ukrainian ambient black metal duo microcosmys based loosely on the Isaac Asimov novel of the same name. Pick up a copy on cassette from either Xenoglossy Productions (order here) or Breathe Plastic Records (order here), and then check out my interview with the inscrutable J.K. below.

Indy Metal Vault:  So first off, thanks for the interview. I like to do some research before I sit down to write questions, and I’ve not been able to find much online about La Torture des Ténèbres – a Bandcamp page, a single interview, and that’s it. I haven’t even been able to figure out of LTDT is a solo project or a band. So I’m looking forward to talking about The Gods Themselves and beyond. To begin with, LTDT is based in Ontario, and microcosmys is from the Ukraine: how did you end up getting together for this split? Were the seeds for it planted when you provided guest vocals for “Deep Space Solitude” on I: …decomposition in Nebula, or were you acquainted prior to that?

J.K.: Thank you for your interest in our projects and for taking the time to speak with us! Illia reached out to LTDT in May 2017 for guest vocals on “Deep Space Solitude.” We’ve been in touch ever since.

IMV: I’ll admit that I’ve not read much Asimov, so I was completely unfamiliar with The Gods Themselves before this split landed in my inbox. What was the impetus for using the novel as the basis for the split? I only had a chance to look at a summary of the novel before writing these questions, but some of its themes certainly seem relevant to the world in 2018.

J.K.: Illia approached LTDT about making a split conceptually centered on the novel. I myself had never heard of the work prior to this split. Its themes certainly seem more than currently relevant though.

IMV: You seem to have a lingering fascination with outer space in your music. Granted, that’s not necessarily all that unique in black metal these days, but you approach it in ways much different from the norm. What was the genesis of your that fascination and your approach?

J.K.: The purpose of LTDT has always been to explore the interpersonal unknown, the obscurity which shrouds the minds and inner thoughts of those around us and surrounds each one of us in infinite psychosocial darkness. If the physical plane manifested as our interpersonal reality does, we would all be cast into bodies adrift in the infinite blackness of deep space.

IMV: Your songs on The Gods Themselves were originally released on 2016’s Choirs of Emptiness. However, the description on your Bandcamp page for Choirs of Emptiness is “Recovered transcriptions of the events before Acadian Nights.” Does that mean that the recordings date back to before your debut album? Or were Choirs and Acadianboth concept albums? They were released less than a month apart, correct?

J.K.: Correct. The events recounted on Choirs Of Emptiness occurred several months before those of Acadian Nights, but the transcriptions on Acadian Nights were recorded first.

IMV: When you originally wrote “Next Stop; Virgo City” and “We Should Have Left It on the Country Station,” did The Gods Themselves inspire them, or did you repurpose them slightly for the split?

J.K.: The universal nature of our psychosocial and philosophical themes make our work endlessly applicable to any timeline or fictional concept. When microcosmys sought a split centered on The Gods Themselves, LTDT selected two tracks whose words and soundscapes were most applicable.

IMV: A lot of metal lyrics tend to be not all that memorable, but I find that yours make for excellent reading in their own right, separate from the music. They strike me as being highly narrative and almost prose-like, but you also drop in some stunning imagery. Most of my favorite lines are on Civilization Is the Tomb of Our Noble Gods, but to use an example from The Gods Themselves, I love the last two lines of “We Should Have Left It on the Country Station”: “Forever bound to the flesh / Yet passing through countless dimensions.” In general, how do LTDT approach writing lyrics? Does your lyricist have any kind of literary background?

J.K.: Thank you for your kind words on our lyricism. I personally do not write LTDT’s lyrics, but I can tell you that they have no literary background and are rooted in personal experiences.

IMV: I think it would be fair to describe your music as ‘cacophonous.’ There’s a mechanical quality to it, but there’s also this hellishly noisy aspect to it as well – very shrill guitar tones, the vocals sound more like static or tape hiss than any kind of sound produced by a human. It’s almost like a form of aural torture – and I say this as an admirer of what you do. What’s your writing/recording process like? How thoroughly conceived are your songs before you start recording? I’m sort of assuming you do everything DIY, so what does your recording setup look like in terms of software, etc.?  How do you achieve your instrument tones?

J.K.: We appreciate your admiration of our sound. Words are transcribed first, and I compose progressions that resonate their message and energy. Tones are calibrated accordingly. Drum loops manifest. I record my progressions over them. Vocals follow suit, then ambience manifests in DAW. This entire process is generally very expedient, so as to not lose or dilute the initial message and energy of the words. Once they are transcribed, a recording is normally complete within 48 hours.

IMV: Where did the cover art for the split come from? It reminds me a lot of the art that adorns the La Torture des Ténèbres releases. Who’s the artist? How closely did either/both of you work with the artist on the concept for the art?

J.K.: Illia offered LTDT several potential cover arts, and we selected the one best suiting our aesthetic. The cover’s artist is unknown to me.

IMV : What’s next for La Torture des Ténèbres? You’ve been pretty prolific thus far in your brief existence – is there any new music in the works?

J.K.: Thank you! is complete. Many physical releases are coming soon.

IMV: Once again, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artist – is there anything else you’d like to add?

J.K.: Thank you again for your time and your interest in our projects! It’s been an honour to speak with Indy Metal Vault. To LTDT’s listeners, we hope our music continues to provide you with philosophical and psychosocial solace.

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