by Interviews

Most people fear the final end, raging against the dying of the light, praying for ascension, or just generally hoping that the inevitable isn't so inevitable. Integrity mastermind Dwid Hellion, on the other hand, sees the final annihilation as the only good result. In fact, the band's last album, the spiraling (and excellent) Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume spent about an hour making the argument that humanity itself deserved extermination and nothing better.

Hellion isn't a happy-go-lucky kind of fellow, so on the band's upcoming split 12-inch with Krieg, he doubles down on the argument with two savage originals wherein he prays for the black end and picks two covers- including a version of underground Japanese legends G.I.S.M. To see why Hellion wants everything- and we mean everything- to just end, Punknews' John Gentile spoke to him about thew new split release, the Dadaist art movement, and the end of the universe. Check it out below.

What I really like about the new split release is how each Integrity track is unique and makes its own statement. The first two tracks are very direct and punchy. Was that by design or is that just how the release turned out? Dom and I sort of thought about it. With an album, we can be more experimental. With something like this, we wanted some more straightforward songs. It was sort of pure, uncut ideas- more ferocious, I suppose. If we did something too experimental- with an LP, you can do songs that maybe people are expecting and songs that people aren’t expecting, and parts that people are expecting mashed together with other things. Though, it wasn’t like we had a sit down meeting with a flow chart or anything. These songs make sense as what we want to do and as something that we wanted to have a punch, have teeth. We knew that Krieg was also going to put something together that would be hard hitting, so we didn’t want to be too experimental- so they complimented each other.

You bring up an interesting point. With a split release, you want to compliment each other. But, for many people, deep down there’s sort of a competitive feeling. “I want to be THE BEST.” When bands play on stage, they often play with friends, but there still can be that desire to be the best in show, as it were. Do you have those impulses? Not really. I think the idea is that we want to put our best foot forward to do the music that we like, foremost, and hopefully people will also enjoy the music. We try to put out the best songs that we can come up with that express that idea at the moment. There isn’t a contest with Krieg. We wanted to do a cohesive record. If we just did an experimental record, people might get thrown off. When I say people, I mean, there are going to be a lot of people that like Krieg that have never heard of us, so they might say “Who is this experimental band? this is too much. This is crazy!” Though, I don’t know if this record follows along with what Krieg is doing. This is, maybe, more hardcore than what Krieg is doing- maybe more than any of the records that we’ve done in the past ten years. I’m usually not trying to go in that direction, but this is just what came out.

You covered G.I.S.M on this record. What does that band mean to you? That was one of the first bands that played this kind of music that I ever heard. In 1984, I bought this double LP called Peace/War. It had bands from all over the world and different styles. G.I.S.M. was on it and I had never heard anything like it. I had heard Motley Crue, early Motley Crue, which is an influence on G.I.S.M.’s work. They took it and made it very bombastic and incendiary. I loved how that worked. I love guitar solos, as anyone can hear from the record. My voice is not like an 80s glam band, but it’s more like Lemmy from Motorhead or something like that. It spoke to me as a 13 year old kid. When I was living in the states, it was almost impossible to find those records.

I made friends with people in Japan and acquired some records that way. I actually got the second album M.A.N. through Pushead. Imagine getting a record 8 or 10 years after it came out, that you didn’t even know existed. When I met up with Pushead to discuss the art for Humanity is the Devil he said “Let’s meet” and he brought me a bag of presents. My eyes popped out of my head, seeing this thing I didn’t even know existed. G.I.S.M. has always been a very special band to me. So was Pushead’s band, Septic Death. So, to be gifted that album from him was a huge honor for me.

You’ve mentioned the concept of mistranslation before. With a lot of Burning Spirits hardcore, the lyrics don’t seem to make sense in English. Let’s talk about why this concept is of interest to you. I think that goes back to the Dada movement in art, where they would do cut up poetry- Tristan Tzara, Paul Eluard, Andre Breton- this guys would take newspapers or other people’s poems, cut out the words- nowadays you have that on the refrigerator, at your Grandmother’s house or whatever. What they wanted to try to do was embody the juxtaposition of artists like Rimbaud. His words are violently smashed together to create new sensations from the results of hearing those words together. They wanted to emulated that somehow through a collage style. They would take words and put them together. Some people would fine tune them, some people would leave them like a Jackson Pollock shotgun blast against the wall.

They had this reading , and I think it was Tzara who did this- he pulled out words out of a hat and was reading them at Cabaret Voltare in Zurich, and people got very irritated by hearing these words put together in such a way. You have to remember the climate of what people perceived as art or even what people perceived as performance. There was no Sex Pistols, or even Green Day, on anyone’s horizon. They had no scope that this type of thing could ever exist. When someone is just communicating to you in such a way that words are broken and you puzzle them back together and they start to reassemble as a language, reassemble the way your brain processes communication, that actually started a riot. I think that was the moment punk was born.

Over the years, people emulated what these guys did back in the day. Then, you have collage art they did- John Heartfield, Max Ernest- they made collage art. You take preexisting images and you cut them out with a knife or scissors and you create a new image from pre-exisitng images that are juxtaposed together and you make something new out of something old. You also have someone like Vivienne Westwood who worked in the development of the Sex Pistols with Malcolm Maclaren and they added collage artwork in the aesthetic of punk art. It sort of became normalized, I suppose.

If you look back and say “how could someone become enraged at someone reading poetry?” Not being truly to appreciate the scope of that, but they didn’t have any of the conditioning that we had. I find that to be fascinating with how words are put together. That’s sort of my life- communicating through word- usually they’re shouted, and often, they are written before they’re shouted. I do a lot of research into things that I like, reading books that I like, or anything that you are interested in, you always want to find different ways to perfect your craft. That’s how I got into that and I wanted to know the history of poets that I admire.

I’m also a student of religious scripture. Obviously the big one for that would, for most people, the Bible. The Bible is a great book of misinterpretation and mistranslations. Because of time and because the Gutenberg press didn’t always exist. Because of things like Emperor Constantine editing and manipulating the book. Because of things like the council of Nicaea.

Speaking of the Church, looking at the last album, and the two original tracks on the new split 12-inch, you make the argument that humanity is this rotten, diseased, failing thing. There’s certainly a parallel between that and the Catholic concept of original sin. I’ve always been frightened, horrified, terrified, and fascinated by religion, mainly because of my upbringing in a very religious family. At the same time, I’m rebellious against the religion that was shoved down my throat. At some point, I decided to “know my enemy” as it were, and I decided to read deep into these books, and there’s such a depth to them- I don’t know if we can cover it all in one answer- but I like the fact that there is a hypocrisy in it. The people who feel that they are the most noble and most holy are usually the polar opposite of what they are portraying. That deception is fascinating. I also find it fascinating that most people go along with it. “Yeah, that’s the way it is, why should we look deeper?” I find that to be fascinating. I’m also haunted by it. Because I’m haunted by it, and because I read abut it, it’s reflected in my writing and lyrics.

You grew up during the PMRC era, which influenced you as well. I grew up in the Regan era- PMRC- all of that kind of oppression. At the same time, as terrible as that was, it was also a fantastic time because it fueled the whole underground scene into making some of the greatest records, and greatest pieces of art, that we’ve ever experienced in our life time- that fuel to the fire made these artists and musicians rise like a phoenix. To me, that was very inspiring. As a young kid, it gave me a feeling of being a bit of an outlaw, even almost a terrorist you could say, because I liked this art and this music. It wasn’t just because of the music. It was the way regular society interacted with me as a kid, wearing a Misfits shirt. Wearing a Misfits shirt in the mid 80s was dangerous.

People would really physically attack you on the street. Weekly I’d have to be in physical fights just because of my wardrobe. Now you can buy Misfits shirts in Target or Walmart. And that’s not saying that’s bad for Misfits or Danzig, I’m one of the biggest Danzig fans ever. But, it’s a weird way to look at the world and how it has changed and continues at the same time. The things that were considered to be absolutely inappropriate in the 80s are now commonplace and seen in department stores- cut off army shorts, these old basketball shoes, and things like that. As dumb as it sounds now. Like we spoke about the Dada movement, reading poetry was dangerous, as ridiculous as it sounds, in the 80s, your wardrobe could be dangerous. What a crazy time that was.

Let’s look at the Misfits issue. There’s two ways to look at that. You could say, because the message is mainstream now, it’s been watered down to nothing. Or, you could say that “the good guys won” and this underground message now is the mainstream. Do you have a perspective on that? Yeah, I don’t think that the Misfits have been watered down through Danzig at all. I think Danzig’s Misfits are timeless and I think people have caught up. I think he’s a person who is often ahead of his time. With the Danzig solo albums, it was the perfect time for that to translate into the population and he received quite a bit of praise for those albums and he deserved that. It was great that he received acknowledgement. He wrote songs for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. I don’t think anything that he has done has been watered down. I think it’s great that those shirts are in those stores and finding people. But, I also think most people buy those shirts as street wear and are not listening to Earth AD. They just see it as a cool visual aesthetic that looks cool and looks good on them.

I find that most people who are very creative have very messy workshops. I think you are very, very creative, but for some reason, I think you have a very neat and orderly workshop. Is that correct? That is incorrect.

Oh! There we go! I have a small path like a hoarder in a way that I can get to my door. I’m pacing back and forth on that small path as I’m speaking to you. Should I describe it to you?

Yes! It’s almost like 7 Reece Mews. I have a drawing table as you walk in on the right. In front of that, I have two giant boxes of merchandise for the next tour that are stacked up. On top of that, I have a box that has some video cameras and some drawings that are thrown into it, just randomly. Behind that, I have a small stepladder so I can get to the second level of my small bookshelf. In front of that stepladder, I have a big box hat has some Integrity skateboards, some homemade guitars, the Integrity banner is in a bag there, I see a roll of posters from Hellfest. I have some guitars over here. I have a broken piano to the left that I cut off the keys and turned it into a giant harp.

[Hellion strikes the “piano” with his hands and makes a racket that sounds like a thunderstorm and sound clip from Psycho combined]

I have a lot of weights for exercise. In front of that, another box of records. In front of that, a medicine ball. There are two more guitars. Then there’s my desk, which is covered with books, that are stacked up pretty high. I have several Victorian era French pulp books that I have the illustrations out that I need to scan for future collages. I have a pile of pedals. Some are synths, some are effects, some are weird modified broken things that make different things. I have stacks of pens, and brushes, and markers. Then, we come to my laptop and my scanner, and we turn around and we’re back at drawing table… and then I pace back towards the door again.

I’m just going to read a few lines from the lyrics of the new record here- “Annihilation is our salvation.” “Prey praying for the end.” Dwid, are things really that bad that we need to just end everything? Are things really so terrible? I think that there is an innate need in the human animal to self destruct and that’s where my sensitivity lies. I think it varies in different people. Politicians, religious leaders, people in power, they all want some form of destruction and that’s why they keep going in the direction that they are going. Whether they are aware of what they want or not, remains to be seen. Maybe it’s subconscious. Maybe it’s a sort of self-defeating thing where they can’t be happy, they can’t be satisfied, so they find things and ways to self-sabotage themselves and end up in negative spaces.

For me, I’m just fascinated by how all of this works. I’m a haunted and conflicted person, and the lyrics reflect that. Do I think that, if everything ended right now, would it be better? I would like to think it would be better, but I can’t be certain as no one can be certain. But, it would be relieving, I think, for everything to just end. By that, I feel that on a somehow religious level, I have this idea that there is a possibility that there is a soul or energy in us that can continue on and if it continues on, then I could come back in another life, in another life form, and this torment and torture continues on again. So, if everything, entirely, was annihilated, then there would be nothing to comeback into, and we would be free of the flesh. I guess that’s the way that I mean it.

Integrity's split with Krieg is out August 3 via Relapse records.

Follow John Gentile on Twitter. Image