Dagon has spearheaded American via Columbia black metal duo Inquisition since their inception 25 years ago. The charismatic mouthpiece, vocalist, and guitarist of the band, whose sound is utterly distinctive thanks to his hypnotic, droning vocals, and slow, beefy riffing juxtaposed against squealing tremolo keys, is amongst a small handful of black metal musicians who is unapologetically talkative, interested in deconstructing the music and scene politics, and constantly striving for recognition in line with his DIY sensibilities. When BeatRoute got him on the phone, he talked our ear off for 35 minutes, and scarcely a moment went by without insightful commentary. Therefore, we have run our conversation – albeit in an edited form due to word counts – below.
BeatRoute: First off, what’s going on with Inquisition? It’s been over two years since Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm, your fifth studio album, came out.
Dagon: “I’m actually sitting here uploading to a laptop another new track we got. It’s our sixth song, and the goal is 10. Just keeping really busy, just trying to get this out… It’s Ominous… on speed and steroids. [Laughs] Yeah, there is a lot, sometimes I hate giving answers like this, even in an interview conversation or whatever, what bothers me about saying things that you hear a million other bands say is that it’s kind of taken for granted. But I deep, deep, deeply mean this, this is three or four times more than Ominous from the arranging to the care I put into the riffs, people have inspired me so much more, there are so many things I read online and people’s comments appearing in the forums and stuff, how they like the riffs and riff this and riff that. So, I’m giving it to them in even bigger doses and yet it’s going to be a very focused album.”
BeatRoute: Ominous was likely the best-received album in your discography. Despite that, you guys have remained underground as hell. Is your upcoming album the one which will change that? Who will release this one?
Dagon: “I was able to score a deal for Hells Headbangers, we want to stay with them for North America and do smaller press special print kind of boutique awesome limited edition kind of stuff, through Jason and his label Hells Headbangers. But we are signed on for Season of Mist worldwide…. It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time, and the dream is, I would say, and I don’t hold words back, I’m a person like everybody else and yes I have goals in life and one of my biggest goals was to take the spirit of the underground and just go with it, and just grow.”
BeatRoute: It seems like that might alienate some of your fans.
Dagon: “I think a lot of people confuse growth in a negative sense. We use the old worn-out term of selling out or just getting to corporately geared; there is all this stuff. Then there was the Morbid Angel incident where people freak out, and they use that against you like ‘look. There you go, this is what happens when bands lose the underground spirit.’ And the underground spirit, you can use that to your advantage in any way you want in a conversation, but personally, coming from me, the underground spirit represents nothing more, nothing less than what you want to do, playing from the heart.”
BeatRoute: Certainly. I think fans think that injection of cash can result in losing a trademark sound that came with being hungry.
Dagon: “I don’t believe in stopping that because of the paranoia or the delusion of, ‘oh man, this is going to affect my songwriting. All of a sudden, I’m not inspired, I can’t write good songs anymore, and we are not going to be brutal and dark and [doing] all the wicked stuff that we’ve been doing in the past. Oh man, now I can’t do it. We forgot, we forgot how to do all those things because now we are signed to a label.’ Now we are on these agencies and playing next to this big bands – big by our standards, you know? – and that’s not a problem with Inquisition. I’ve said this a million times in the past to people, black metal truly, truly is, it’s the music we play, it truly is a spiritual vehicle. And because it’s spiritual to me, musically spiritual and philosophically spiritual, if I respect that, and I don’t sell out in that sense, and I stay on my path, then we are the same Inquisition from when the first album came out in ’98, ’97, it’s the same thing.”
BeatRoute: Lyrically speaking, you’ve always seemed inspired by the left hand path since those formative days. What will your upcoming album be about?
Dagon: “Overall, it’s an easy one for me, it’s peering more into the dark side of science itself and astronomy that I love so much, and the physics of astronomy. We are pretty much evolving from the topic that was applied in Ominous… The reason I bring this is up is because I feel like science today, everything is evolving so quickly. We hear that a lot, but it truly is…. Everything our ancestors – the ancient ones, as we call them – theorized about the universe and the even multiple worlds, which would be this theoretical multiverse, go hand in hand so much that it’s difficult to put into words. But you might be catching what I am getting onto, which is taking what we can prove scientifically and using the parallel of Satanism and the left hand path and the obscure side and how we used to speak of what sciences were in the ancient times, and kind of combining that together. Some people compare Ominous to a Lovecraftian style of writing…. Astro-physics is just so mind-boggling, it’s Satanic in my mind.”
BeatRoute: The whole genre has changed a lot in the past decade not just lyrically but also in terms of the associated politics. There is a serious division in fans and bands who take the DIY ethos extremely personally, while other fans almost revel in the clichéd aspects. Where does Inquisition sit on the continuum?
Dagon: “I’m not trying to prove anything, but at the same time I’m trying to prove something. And what I’m trying to prove is, by being yourself and being authentic, but at the same time respecting what black metal truly represents; you will get a lot of respect back. I compare it to the military, especially the old school military ways. You know, you would get a General or what not, and he wears a uniform, and underneath that, he is at home and he doesn’t wear that uniform, he is Jack, he is that guy. Right? At the same time, he puts that uniform on and it represents something. So, there is my human side, and at the same time, there is Dagon of Inquisition who performs and writes black metal. And what that means is, I am myself, but I’m also Dagon in the sense that I know what black metal represents…. being authentic to everybody and honest, is the best way to just carve your own trench or path without anybody getting in your way and trying to bring you down and judge you or what you’re doing as wrong. This is my path, I know what I’m doing, I know what I want, and it’s not wrong.”
Let Inquisition lull you into a trance with Marduk, Moonspell, The Foreshadowing, and Death Wolf on March 4 at Dickens Pub.
By Sarah KitteringhamAB, Alberta