Thursday 1 October 2009

Interview with Until The Light Takes Us Directors, Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites


Until The Light Takes Us is a new movie chronicling Norway's genre-defining black metal scene from the early 90s. It features Varg Vikernes, Fenriz, Hellhammer and many more black metal musicians. It is making its premiere here in London next Wednesday, October 7th, 2009.

This finally looks like the real-deal in terms of a decent movie/docu focusing on black metal, and I've been pretty psyched to see it since I saw the trailer a year or so ago. I caught up with Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites, the movies directors, albeit briefly, before they flew out to Greece last week. Here's some of what we spoke about...

So, having read an interview on ANUS, you proclaimed to have little prior knowledge on black metal until you decided to do the movie, how long ago was this and what drew you to black metal?
Audrey: That's not quite it. We were introduced to black metal by our friend Andee Connors who runs Aquarius Records in San Francisco, he had also put out Aaron's first record and knew that we were really into experimental and lo-fi music, and knew that we would be into it. So, we ended up amassing a huge black metal collection and were drawn more than anything to the sense of honesty in the music. At the same time, everything that we'd read about it was sort of breathless, so there was a schism. We assumed that there was a good documentary about it and went looking for that, just because we wanted to see it. But there wasn't. So, one thing led to another, and after doing really exhaustive research, made the doc we wanted to see.

How long ago was this?
Audrey: Well, we researched the film for a year, filmed for two years in Norway, and came back to the states with 350+ hours, a lot of debt, and a lack of funds to finish. So, we took a break to clear our heads, spent a good chunk of time raising funds, then started logging and editing. Then our system crashed. Which, just is a devastating thing to have happen. We regrouped, raised more money, got a new system and editor, and spent the next year editing. We premiered the film at AFI in L.A. on Oct 31, 2008. feels like my whole life.

Ha ha, I bet. Man, that must've really hit you both hard when you lost everything, was there a point where you thought 'this project is doomed, let's go make a piece on blah blah blah instead'?
Aaron: Well, it was definitely a dark moment in our lives, but we were committed to finishing the film. You don't get very far in these things without a superhuman level of commitment.

I think the only semi-decent documentary I've seen is the Satan Rides The Media one, even though all it does again is focus on the church burnings, violence etc. and has very little focus on the actual music. Is Until The Light Takes Us more music oriented?
Aaron: Well, first of all it's not about being a music documentary or an expose or journalism etc. It's a film. And to give you some reference points, we take more from filmmakers like Godard, Von Trier, Chris Marker, and Lynch than we do from other documentary makers etc. I would say the film has many focuses including music, post-modernism and global culture.

Was it the music or the allure of black metal that you think convinced you to make the film? Or was it like Audrey said, to 'make the doc we wanted to see'?
Aaron: I would like to think that all filmmakers stick to making films they want to see first and foremost. We certainly do. It was the music that first drew us to the subject though.

Which albums/artists in particular?

Aaron: Darkthrone (Transilvanian Hunger, A Blaze In The Northern Sky, Goatlord Tape) Burzum (the first four), Immortal (up through Blizzard Beasts), Emperor (All), Mayhem (Everything up through De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas), The early Thorns Demos, Enslaved, Gorgoroth etc. That's where we started, then we worked our way both backwards (through Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom etc.) and forwards (still finding new stuff all the time), lately Drudkh etc. I think our path was pretty typical for a music fan. We weren't planning a doc when we got into it. Just huge music fans working our way through a huge genre that was new to us.
Audrey: When we first got to Norway we had really bad jet lag, and I swear the only thing that we could go to sleep to was Blizzard Beasts. I'm sure a lot of people have had that experience...

Ha, I gotta say Burzum has always gotten me off to sleep nicely. Would you agree that black metal is musically diverse (often contradictory perhaps) from band to band? Out of the four original 'big bands' (Burzum, Darkthrone, Immortal & Mayhem), none sound too alike
Audrey: Yes, it's a good point, and a point we get at in the film is that these people are individuals with different goals. There's always some cohesiveness within a scene, but if you look at early Darkthrone and early Emperor, there's certainly room to say that they had different things that they were working toward. And then there are bands like Thorns, who are amazing, but the boundaries of what black metal is or was or could be has always been a slippery slope. To us, so much of it is about intention, ideology.

Tickets for the screening next Wednesday, October 7th, are available here. I am also dj'ing the after party (which is free). Flyer below...


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