The ungodly symmetry and inverted irony of Profanatica’s saviour-impaling new full-length ‘Crux Simplex’ – a suitably sadistic and scorn-fuelled musical interpretation / bastardization of the first ten stations of the cross – surfacing now in the band’s 33rd year is not lost on master of ceremonial black perversion, Paul Ledney, whose war against the deluded carpenter and his promiscuous mother shows no sign of abating. The infamous pioneer of raw USBM iniquity reluctantly called a brief truce to his relentless crusade against bankrolled Christendom to deliberate upon works of art nailed lavishly onto church walls; matching blasphemous sounds and intent with appropriately graphic visuals; crude crucifixion devices; flames of hatred fanned by omnipresent hypocrisy; and the curious wimping-out of others.
The stations of the cross depict the last hours on earth of the bastard son – if the comical death of that narcissistic bearded swine isn’t something to celebrate and mock then I don’t know what is?
“Yeah, the whole thing is comical but there is lots of good material in there, I always find, and there’s a lot of shit to bend and bastardize. It is a bastardization already, so…”
It’s a great idea for an album and I’m surprised this hasn’t been done before (at least not to my knowledge). So when or how did the idea come to you that the stations of the cross could provide the foundation for a concept album?
“I think I was browsing around online and it just hit me to do that. These ideas just kind of come to me. And that happens fast and in my own head I’m either like ‘yes’ or ‘no’ right away. I never really sit and think about it and say ‘yeah maybe that’s a good idea’; normally when I get an idea I’m like ‘that’s it, I’m doing it’, even if it seems a little crazy at first and other people are not so fond of the idea, like the people close to me.”
Are you familiar with the stations of the cross images that come in a variety of portraits, paintings and carvings and adorn the side walls of almost every Catholic church? They can be quite graphic and visceral. I assume they are contrived to evoke sympathy for the martyr but it is difficult not to laugh at the doomed fraud and revel in his agony…
“I am of course, I love those. The art, depending on which church you go to, I’ve seen multi sets of those and the art is always top tier, it seems. I mean, they have a lot of money to spend on stuff like that.”
The movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is another work of entertainment based around the stations – have you watched it? He gets quite a hammering:
“I’ve only seen part of it. I don’t know if you like it? I’m not against watching it, it’s just there’s so much shit and it came out and I said ‘I’m going to get to it, I’m going to get to it’ and I haven’t really yet.”
I didn’t want to watch it because it was about Jesus but it was on in the background once and I saw a large chunk and it was pretty enjoyable because of the torment he suffers…
“He definitely gets his ass kicked. I’ve seen a couple of those scenes, haha.”
Can you explain what the Crux Simplex is? My understanding is that it’s a rather crude crucifixion post or implement without the T section and it was used to either crucify or impale people back in the day?
“It just translates to simple cross or simple pole. When I had the cover done, we looked around at different artists. Somebody suggested Abomination Hammer, I looked at his stuff, and I said ‘yes, that’s the guy’. Chris Moyen has done some pieces for me, Daniel Desecrator has done some, Paulo Girardi too, and I always try to have it planned out to a tee. I don’t want them to put their ideas in; I want them to put their whole style into the sketches that I make. With a lot of artists, you can grab an album and say ‘so and so must have done this, the same colour palette, it looks exactly the same’ and shit like that so I kind of have it planned out. I always save the sketches and when I get the final piece delivered I pull out the sketch and see how far they veered, and they are always pretty much dead on because these guys are professionals and once they agree to go by what I’m asking for… And now, looking back, when I was describing it to him I said ‘kinda like a Cannibal Holocaust cover, of that kind of penetration through his whole body’.
“These decisions that I make, they just fly into my head. When Paulo Girardi was painting ‘The Rotting Incarnation of God’ cover, he said ‘what do you want, the people like praying as the nativity scene?’ and I go ‘just take their heads off’. He was like ‘should I do an altar boy?’ and I’m like ‘ehh, just take everybody’s heads off so we don’t know who it is, if it’s male or female’.
“Looking back, I must be influenced by things that I don’t really know because it was very much like that movie Hereditary, which I love. It’s very rare does a newer horror film come out that’s psychological that I could be like ‘holy shit, this is kind of good’. Most of it’s garbage – it’s something to watch, I’ll still watch garbage, I watch shit all the time but it’s weird what ideas stick in my head and which ones don’t.”
The simple cross was reserved for use on criminals – which is fitting…
“It is. And think about it, the stuff was probably crudely made, too, and just kind of tied up. Who actually knows if that did happen but if it did it was probably kind of like made kind of quickly and hammered or tied together.”
Would you say Jesus got nailed up on one of these simple crosses? If so, it would mean the traditional Christian cross that has become his symbol is a misrepresentation…
“I don’t know. I wasn’t there. That whole story, I mean like how the hell would they know? I don’t know who was taking notes, was it just orally passed down? I feel the cross was probably not a nice thing like what we would commonly see, all decorated and even. It was probably more crude and not flat, either. It was probably like round, like how we kind of had it on the cover.”
Where does the new album fit into the Profanatica discography – is it a natural continuation of your life’s work and can you comment on any tweaks in your approach this time around?
“Kind of. I think the production is a little better, and we’re 100 per cent serious about it. Some of the older shit – which I still like, and I’m proud of it – it’s got a very lo-fi sound and sometimes I guess I really don’t give a shit but I could see how sometimes people might not take it that seriously because of the lo-fi sound, and they might think that we’re just fucking around, whereas a lot of times a band will try to get a cleaner, heavier sound because the way I feel this thing is definitely evil and part of that comes from the clarity of the riffs – there’s no mistaking what we’re playing and what we’re going after.
“It is definitely a continuation. And I’m not saying we won’t go back in the future to that reverb, kinda-wet sound, it’s possible, but I’m happy with what we did here. We planned it out that way. I said ‘I need this to have more bite and be a little bit less smooth than the last one, which was very reverb-y’. This one is true Black / Death Metal and it’s got the power of Death Metal but hopefully the riffs are evil and our intent comes across because I want to be able to feel the hate. Now that we’ve put so much time into each change of each song, hopefully that comes through, that it’s more of a serious thing.”
Profanatica reached something of an ironic milestone this year – 33 years since the band was born. The band’s lifetime now matches that of the King of the Jews himself…
“That’s true and that would be a very happy accident.”
You have remained consistent, resolute and dedicated musically and thematically / ideologically. While others have evolved or matured or toned things down and lost their edge – Profanatica has stuck to your blasphemous guns. The sense of disgust is genuine and deep-rooted – and getting stronger with each passing year. What is the source of that simmering resentment and why does it remain so powerful after all these years, while so many others are losing it?
“Everybody is losing it. I’ve always said that if everything is not in place then I’m not going to force it. You’ll see longer gaps than I’d wanted to have between different line-ups and releases. We could have just done something every year regardless and seen how it came out and took a chance, but I didn’t have a stable line-up at the time and I wanted to make sure everything was in its place before I pulled the trigger and said ‘yes, we’ll do a full-length or a split or an EP’.
“Also, when I was a kid in a religious background, another thing that bothered me is when bands changed their style but kept the name of the band. I remember being young and it just seemed that everybody would do that. When you are young, like ten or eleven, and you save up money to buy a vinyl, you want to bring it home and you’re trying to like it and you don’t want it to have only one heavy song on there and the other nine are like shit. That just bothered me so much as a young kid and I swore that if I do this ever, if I’m lucky enough to be in a band, I’m never going to do that. As far as I’m concerned only a handful of bands deserve to keep the name they had on their original demo or first full-length.
“I don’t know why they do it. They will rationalize it. I am still annoyed by this double standard or hypocrisy that the church pulls and I don’t play favourites. I’m not one of these guys that goes ‘well I used to not like it but now that it’s happening to me it’s okay’. I still police myself and my friends and family the way I would do strangers. I deal with hypocrisy every day and I really don’t think that I’ll ever get over it. This hypocrisy and bullshit and bending of the truth is where my hatred comes from. I’m not walking around angry like ‘these fucking liars!’ or driving around going ‘these pale fucks need to get out of my way!’, but these situations arise and there is a parallel between these phony people and the church goers and as long as there’s that, and this hypocrisy in the world, it seems like I am still a little bit angry or annoyed and that’s kind of where that fire comes from, I would say.”
With a lot of bands, the extreme origins are almost just a phase they are going through and they move on quickly because it was never real to them. They’re not genuinely extreme people with extreme views.
“That’s one thing I could say is that we are pretty damn good at being Profanatica and I wanted that to come across live as well. So I put a lot of ‘this is the kind of energy, this is what we’re thinking’ while certain parts are being played, but, yeah, it could be a phase, that these kids were young and just did it for a year or two and got better at their instruments and this might be, unfortunately, what all these bands who have wimped out, maybe this is what they really wanted to do all this time. Which I guess would be fine if they didn’t keep the logo or the name or use the clout that they earned because they were badass back then.”
To what extent is Profanatica a vehicle for your love of raw, primitive BM as opposed to an expression of your hatred of Jesus and the whore? Where does that balance lie?
“I think it’s a balance of the hatred – this is also our concept – balanced with how we wanted to sound. It’s a vehicle for getting that point across of our hatred for that bullshit. We put out that ‘Pale Fuck’ 7”, which has elements of old punk and some elements of crust but it works in my opinion and even if I joined another type of band or started a new project that sounded nothing like this, the concept, that would just be a vehicle for the blasphemy. If somebody handed us some instruments that they’d just made themselves and said ‘nobody has these instruments, you guys figure out how to play ‘em’, I would have to say that, ‘yes, this is the concept that we’re going to go with and we’ll use these instruments as just the vehicle to get there’.”
Profanatica is synonymous with very strong imagery – both the artwork gracing the covers of your releases and the decidedly graphic and memorable band pics…
“We’re trying to make our stuff the way we want it and if other people like it then that’s great. But what I didn’t want is just these…if you type in ‘Black Metal Band’ in Google and hit Images it’s like a giant cloning exercise. Everybody looks exactly the same. Our shit’s a little bit different but we like it. Still, if something does come out looking somewhat similar to something someone else has, and we like it, we’re going to use it, so we’re not just bending over backwards trying to come up with the most original. You need money and time to do something really spectacular that nobody’s seen. But the cover art is very important, and just how we want our art to come across is factored in. Our covers are all different but they come from the same source and you could pick ‘em out. If we took the logo and the title off of all our covers or cast artwork you’d probably be able to say like ‘oh my God that looks like a Profanatica or something they would use’.”
How ridiculous is it that we have western and northern indigenous peoples worshipping a hobo from the Middle East who has nothing to do with our cultures?
“It’s unbelievable to me and of course I’m sitting here thinking ‘let’s do our own thing, then’. People have to be told what to like and what not to like and it’s fascinating how certain people will roll over and play dead, while very few people will question it. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know anybody anymore that believes in that bullshit. A few people here and there, maybe… Maybe in the ‘nineties some people where I worked were still into that … but it is an import. And the thing is: was that the first attempt? Who came before to try to import another religion in? The promoter for this shit is really good. It’s a real force to be reckoned with. They have more money than god and they are pretty powerful.”
Outside of maybe Archgoat and Blood Chalice, there don’t appear to be too many bands today following the same graphic and obscene overtly antichristian path as Profanatica. Do you find the lack of adversity and how safe and harmless so many so-called BM bands are disappointing?
“I did – a couple of years ago. It took me way longer than anybody else to say to myself ‘we’re just going to do what we do and that’s it’. Maybe or just the past couple of years I’ve been on that kick. But if somebody brings it up – if I’m at a show or a party or whatever, or around a group of people – of course it’s super annoying that there’s nobody doing really disgusting, strong stuff and I just don’t know why. And they’re probably thinking ‘I wonder why he is doing that – what’s his end game, what’s his goal?’ Of course there’s Archgoat, and there’s very, very strong Death Metal too, like Dead Congregation and stuff like that, that’s kind of like a little bit Death / Black Metal.
“Actually, even the new Incantation is extra heavy. Like Incantation and Archgoat, you could venture off a little bit, explore new avenues, maybe use a little bit of a clearer production so you can hear the underlying evil that’s going on and it will still be considered part of the Profanatica system, if you will, like just our way of doing things.”
Live shows or sacrificial ceremonies or rituals have become a big part of what Profanatica is all about. How important are these and have you anything interesting lined up at the moment?
“We did the European tour in the Spring, we did the West Coast portion of our US tour, and now in November we’re going to do the East Coast portion of that. We’re playing at least the first four off the new album and then as time progresses we’ll get older and older with the material. I think we’re doing 20 dates in 22 days, something like that…”
No rest for the wicked!
“No. In Europe we did 30 in a row with no days off. Which I wasn’t excited about but we did it. And it’s kind of always like that for us – the hard part is planning a band for us that is a good fit live, that’s able to go for like 20 or 30 days in a row.”
You must be quite fit and healthy.
“No, I’m not but I’m getting there little by little. In terms of my cardio, once I get past the second song, I can just go for hours if I felt like it. But the first couple, I’m definitely breathing heavy and once I get the nerves out …
“That’s another thing … the reasons these bands can’t come with us because of their shitty jobs, it seems ridiculous to me. They don’t have to conform to my goals or dreams but it’s just the shit that they think is a career is not. I mean, during the day I’m a screen printer. And I’m able to print some merch if I need it. I’ve been printing for a long time. Of course my boss is not happy when I’m gone for 30+ days, but at the same time I’m not like a doctor and people aren’t dying because I’m not there, so it is what it is. Everybody’s situation is different but I do think it’s bullshit that bands are like ‘I work at such and such a place, I’ll never get the time off’. I have texted them and said ‘dude, that’s not a fucking career. Just quit that, do the tour and then get a job like in the exact same role somewhere else’. It wasn’t too long ago that I couldn’t leave work because my head wasn’t 100 per cent in the game and I didn’t want to do it half-assed, so I get both sides, but that’s been a big problem for us, especially in Europe, finding a band that’s a really good fit.”
Why did you stop at ten tracks with ‘Crux Simplex’ when there are 14 stations of the cross? I’m sure you have a lot of enthusiasm for 11 and 12 – namely ‘Jesus is nailed to the cross’ and ‘Jesus dies on the cross’. Will you record songs for the other four?
“We’re definitely going to have to finish the last four. I’m not sure how, but we are working on those tracks right now. I was mistaken and I thought there was only ten originally and that maybe they had added four more. I know there’s ten commandments, maybe I was thinking about that. But eleven and twelve are going to be brutal…”