One of the most remarkable and original records to have come out so far this year must have been Zeal & Ardor’s ‘ Devil is Fine’, an unlikely combination of Negro spirituals and lofi black metal. Main instigator behind this project, the Swiss American artist, Manuel Gagneux, reads from the unholy scripture to tell us exactly how he put the black back into black metal.
Combining elements of black metal with spirituals and delta blues is about as unlikely a marriage as you’re likely to find. How did you come by this idea?
It came from an exercise I did on 4chan. I’d ask people for 2 different genres of music and I’d combine them into a song in 30 minutes or less. These two stuck with me.
Where does the reference Zeal & Ardor come from?
It’s two English words with heavy Christian connotations. I like having something that people might only know from the bible.
Would you describe yourself as a metal head who became fascinated by these ancient gospel chants or is it the other way around?
I’m definitely a metal head first. The spiritual stuff I had to look into and research a lot.
Did you do a lot of research in this area?
Yes, I listened to a ton of Alan Lomax recordings. He was a musicologist that collected field recordings of old folk songs. Really great stuff.
If you would turn the music into images you would probably end up with something that looks like a agical mix between Django Unchained and an old Hammer flick? Was that what you were aiming for?
That sounds like something I would definitely watch. I do love Hammer films way too much.
How have been the responses so far for the creation of this rather unusual new genre?
Mixed, but the ones I hear are mainly positive. I think if someone doesn’t like it, they often don’t take the time to write about it.
You’ll be taking the stage in April at the renowned Roadburn festival. What can we expect?
I can’t say too much about the stage show. There’s a ton of new material. I guess you’ll have to come see!
Where will you go from here? Is this a one-time experiment and will you be combining 2 other seemingly incompatible genres on the next record or is this new strain something you would like to explore further?
I think there’s still a lot left to explore within this combination, but I’m sure I’ll add more elements. As soon as I feel like I’m forcing it, I think it might be time to stop. No one needs forced music.