Fresh off the release of their sick blackened cover of The Cure’s 1989 classic ‘Plainsong’, Nottingham, UK based post-black metal quintet UNDERDARK are back to our pages with an in-depth interview with their thoughts on the pandemic, political protests, far-right movements, the era of misinformation, and a lot more.
Hey there guys! Thanks so much for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. How are you during these disruptive times?
Hey! Thanks for having us. It’s a genuine pleasure. We’re all doing fine thank you.
The 5 of us are have been and are still working during lockdown with no signs of anything slowing down (work and pandemic-wise) so we’re all feeling it in one way, shape or form that’s for certain.
Given the pandemic madness, how’s Nottingham? Are your neighbourhood, local businesses and community organizations operating “normally”? How’s the situation looking in the midst of the second wave so far?
Being spread out across Nottingham and its surrounding areas (Leicester, Mansfield & Grantham included) it’s been strange to hear the varying degrees of what’s happening.
Most places are still open for the most part, or trying to regain some sense of ‘normality’. It’s difficult to see people’s livelihoods be slowly eroded for lack of their own fault I’ll say, especially with the lack of help our government seem to be giving.
With this second wave lockdown, I feel like a lot of people, businesses and places are fed up with it now. I see as many people carrying out their day-to-day tasks as there was during the lockdown relaxations. Everyone I talk to seem miserable or confused about what’s going on, or what the future looks like. It’s a really bleak outlook at the moment.
Crazy year it was, with a rollercoaster ride of emotions for many of us. How would you sum up the last 11 months for you personally and the band?
Personally I can say it’s been a roller coaster for myself. From March to the middle I was volunteering through my workplace as a Covid tester for the Nottingham drive through test sites, until I lost my job due to COVID, gaining employment again, losing close family members, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, It’s been a real wild year to say the least.
For the band we’ve been thankful to get the Plainsong/Bruised single out, which wasn’t planned until about may time, as our proper plans were obvious derailed by the pandemic. The response to it has been nothing short of incredible & heart-warming. I wish I could genuinely get across to the friends & fans of us how much they and their support means to us. Hopefully this will suffice for now.
How about the world? Given all the socio-political events, where are we heading with all of this?
Again a roller coaster to watch unfold across the globe. Watching the Black live matter movement and police brutality protests unfold worldwide was excellent to witness, I just wish it came about under less tragic circumstances. Myself, my partner and band mates attended our local, respective protests, which had huge turnouts. An incredible presentation of solidarity, which hopefully means some positive changes in the future.
Seeing the absolute shit-show that is the UK political system become an even bigger circus than it once was, like the ruling Conservative government dealings with the pandemic situation, the result of what happens when you gut and maim national health service that then has to deal with a pandemic, the lack of justice for the victims of Grenfell years on, to the labour party becoming a centrist joke of what it once was.
I won’t even begin to start on what’s going on in America. I lost all hope after reading new stories about Mexican immigrants being sterilised against their own will. Nothing short of Inexcusable cruelty that needs attention to say the very least.
A wave of protests swept through countries this year. Globally, can we say what circumstances precipitated all of this? For someone not specialized in foreign affairs and politics, what’s causing all the social bias?
The quote “There’s only so many times you can kick a dog before it turns vicious” comes to mind. With how easily information can spread across the Internet, like these harrowing videos of police brutality for example, there’s no hiding anymore. You can’t argue that stuff like this doesn’t happen when there’s such video footage as what’s been shared before. Add this to years of oppression from governments and authoritarian figures, it’s only going to build up to a point where something will have to give way, and has done so.
There has been been a harsh criticism towards anti-fascist protesters in the States. How do you assess this misinformation and remarks toward anti-fascist activists and what opportunities do the current protests present for anti-fascists in the US, Poland, Belarus, and other countries in general?
With having various far-right movements gaining ground, spearheaded by someone who happens to hold one of the highest positions of power in the country repeatedly spewing the same propaganda to his cult-like fan base that “the left are the real fascists” and them lapping it up like it’s the gospel, it’s no surprise to me. The amount of misinformation and the lengths these spin doctors go to creating these false narratives shows is insane. I like to think (and hope) that people do see through their bullshit and see them for what they really are: a small minority of hateful, white supremacist cry-babies who are scared of change.
The amount of coverage these protests and protesters are getting shows that those in higher positions are scared of what can happen when the masses mobilise towards a common goal or enemy. Hence why I think they try and showcase everyone as “anarchist agitators” or “enemies of free speech” or whatever.
These acts of mobilising and direct action are key things to remember for the future, this only shows what change can be achieved when we organise.
What are your perspectives for 2021? I mean, both your plans with UNDERDARK, and your projections for the world events and the pandemic situation.
For Underdark, we’re hoping to achieve what we set out to do this year: release our debut album, tour as much as we can, hopefully hit up mainland Europe again and visit some places we’re yet to play. We’ve also discussed how feasible it is to play some shows in the US if we can get some serious discussions with people about it.
This is all COVID dependant as you’d probably imagine. Personally I like to think we’ll be back to how things was by spring, but my gut feeling is we’re going to get at least another year of this.
When do you imagine we will be able to get back to attending live events and finally end this depressing concert-less era?
The sooner the fucking better to be honest. This is the longest I’ve not attended a show since I was 13 years old (currently 29 for perspective) I miss seeing my mates and watching bands so much. It’s doing an absolute number on me mentally, but the thought of gigs happening again in the future is keeping me going at the very least. That and I’m aiming to start promoting more shows in Nottingham when they start up again, as a way of doing my bit for mates and DIY culture. Hopefully I’ll have some exciting shows to announce sooner than later.
This is also the longest Underdark have been without playing a show, even when we was in-between vocalists. We’ve been sceptical about booking any shows for the future to avoid the risk of them being cancelled. We’ve seen friends announce shows, which I’m hopefully excited to attend or play alongside, but the chances of them happening right now are slim I sadly think.
Ok, so we’re fresh off your recent release of ”With Bruised & Bloodied Feet” single. Can you give us some background behind its creation, lyrical content and meaning?
During the first couple months of lockdown, we gave up hope of getting the album released anytime this year until COVID showed signs of fucking off. With us wanting to showcase the incredible talent that Abi is to the world, and with her nearly being in the band for a year and no recordings to show for it. Plus we haven’t released anything in a good while so we wanted people to know that we’re still here, and still a force to be reckoned with.
We thought we’d have some fun and re-record one of our favourite Mourning Cloak tracks and a cover. We’ve been playing these songs for so long now, they’ve evolved into something much more violent/fiercer sounding with better playing ability. Plus with the network we now have of having Boulty at Stuck on a Name for recording, Misha Herring at Holy Mountain Studios and Adam Gonvales at Telegraph Mastering working on the recorded output has really pushed our sound to new exciting places I think.
Lyrically with having our previous vocalist Max written them years ago, I can’t really comment or speculate on the themes too much. I do remember him saying ‘feminist issues through the eyes of a tree witch” in past conversations we had, and also seeing a quote from the film “The Witch” being used on one section.
The other song on the record is a marvellous cover of THE CURE’s epic ”Plainsong”. How did you gravitate towards this particular selection?
We’ve jokingly always said that The Cure seems to be the standard go-to band to cover if you’re a black metal band. That and all of us are fans of them to varying degrees, and an obvious influence on us.
Plainsong was mainly Ollie and Adam’s choice, and with them two being our main songwriters we had faith in their choice. I don’t think anyone will really understand the lengths them two went to making that song sound like ‘Us”. It’s a true testament of the hard work they put in for our songs.
Will there be more new music from you guys coming our way in the coming weeks? Was this release aforerunner of something more?
We’ve mentioned our debut album a few times in the past, and I can say that it is coming. We can’t say too much about it still unfortunately, but I can assure you it’s more than worth the wait. It’s going to hit you harder than a hammer to the skull. Trust me.
We’re also working on some more new music whilst in lockdown, which might be some of my favourite and most adventurous stuff we’ve written to date. All I can say about that is watch this space.
This cassette was a one time only collector’s item released in two variants by Red Nebula Records (US) and Surviving Sounds (EU). What’s your take on this format in 2020? What inspired you to use it for your new release?
As a passionate hoarder of obsolete formats, I love the collectability of cassettes. They’re cheap to make (pre-Covid anyway) you can do some interesting designs with the packaging nowadays and they take up minimal shelving space. The DIY aspect making your own is also a big factor I think. The audio quality is less than desirable compared to vinyl/CD’s but you can’t argue with their newfound popularity, especially within Black metal.
As we weren’t planning a big grand release for the single, we thought we’d make a small collectable run at the very least for the die-hard fans. Having both Surviving Sounds and Red Nebula get on board with it was a great moment for us, having known both parties than run these labels for a good while before working together on this. The response to the tapes has been amazing, with the UK/Euro Surviving Sounds run selling out before release day & having Red Nebula not far behind either. We’re truly thankful to have the fans we have.
Labels wise, will you be cooperating with Surviving Sounds on your future releases? What other labels would you like to work with in the future and why?
We’ve spoken to Surviving Sounds and whilst we have nothing set in stone, I believe the door is open to both parties for future endeavours. The work Frenchie and David put into that label is incredible and we can see them doing great things in the future.
For us, any label that is willing to back our vision and us, shares similar ethics, and wants to work as hard as we do is a label we want to work with.
Lastly, hungry for some more inspirations, we’re love to see what was fueling your creative souls this year. Can you give us your best records, movies, series, books and/or events of the year?
- Dead Heat – Certain Death
- Inhuman Nature/Road Mutant – Split
- Thou/Emma Ruth Rundle – May our Chambers be Full
- Mindforce – Swingin’ Swords, Choppin’ Lords
- Cryptic Shift – Visitations from Enceladus
- Vile Creature – Glory! Glory! Apathy took Helm!
- Lamp of Murmurr – Heir of Elliptical Romanticism
- Terminal Nation – Holocene Extinction
- Arborcidio – What We Leave Behind
- Take Offense – Keep an Eye Out
- Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean – The Vestige
- Drain – California Cursed
- Counterparts – Nothing Left to Love
- Undeath – Lesions of a Different Kind
- Queen & Slim
- The Nightingale
- Death Proof
- Lords of Chaos
- Series: The Mandolorian
- Neon Genesis Evangellion
- Parks and Recreation
- The Boys
- Expect Resistance – Crimethinc
- Battle Royale – Koshun Takimi
- The Man in the High Castle – Phillip K Dick
- For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway
Thank you so much for your time and insightful answers. More power to you. Have a great rest of the year and take care! Cheers from Warsaw!
Thank you for hosting my ramblings on your site! Biggest thanks to anyone reading this and fans of Underdark. Hopefully you’ll hear more from us soon!