For a short while, Brooklyn's Liturgy was one of the most divisive extreme metal groups around, finding themselves at the center of a roiling controversy over, among many things, whether they could be considered a part of the extreme metal community at all. Even now, one imagines there are still metal fans holding on to the belief that Liturgy, and the band's front man Hunter Hunt Hendrix in particular, are merely a group of art-school blowhards. The release of last year's Aesthetica, one of the most highly reviewed (though still somewhat controversial) metal albums of the year, helped to silence some detractors with its powerful blend of black metal, hardcore, neo-classical, and minimalism. [I/we/nuvo] spoke with Liturgy's front man Hunter Hunt Hendrix ahead of their performance this weekend at Metallica's Orion Festival in New Jersey.
NUVO: In your interview with the Quietus you say that the title of Aesthetica is meant to designate the gap between moral and aesthetic truths. Why do you think it's important to have a gap there?
Hunter Hunt Hendrix: Maybe this gap is illusory, actually. My sense is that music and art have enormous moral power. Or to be more specific, beauty is prior to morality, because it is paradigm-generating. That's the way I want to make music - not as expression, or originality, or resistance, but as ethics.
NUVO: You've spoken a lot about the philosophical thrust of your band, do you think about the music of others in the same way, or is the way you think about Liturgy a unique result of how close you are to the music?
Hendrix: Connecting music and philosophy is more common in classical music, starting with the romantic period. I'm thinking of Wagner, Stockhausen and Xenakis as examples of composers who connect their music to big cosmic ideas. I think there's a place for that in music, particularly in black metal. There can also be music that is purely musical. Sometimes that music is much more successful as music.
NUVO: You've mentioned Nietzsche and Converge as your two main influences, but I was wondering, do you find yourself influenced at all by composers like Steve Reich or Rhys Chatham, or really anyone in that vein?
Hendrix: Steve Reich and Rhys Chatham are both enormous influences. There are too many different influences to name, really. For different interviews I'll just mention ones that currently happen to be on my mind.
NUVO:It would seem that you read quite a lot; what sort of stuff are you reading now?
Hendrix: I just finished a study by Graham Harman of Quentin Meillassoux's unpublished masterpiece The Divine Inexistence. Currently I'm reading a volume called What is Art? containing a dialogue with Joseph Beuys about Art, Jacques Lacan's Seminar VII and Aesthetics and its Discontents by Ranciere.
NUVO: You guys are about to play Orion, which is a festival curated by Metallica. How do you feel about that?
Hendrix: We feel awesome. Metallica is so awesome.
NUVO: Have you or the band started to think about or plan your next musical step, whether a new album or something else?
Hendrix: I have a lot of new material. We've been trying to keep touring to a minimum for 2012 so there is enough time to write. I want to end up with something beyond just another new album, something with a video and narrative component, or even something interactive. But this material could go in a lot of different directions. Maybe there will simply be another ordinary album first, then something different; at this stage I'm not sure.
Editor's note: We included this interview with Liturgy, who will play at Orion Music and More Festival this weekend, because your resident music editor has flown East to cover the fest. She'll be back with much more this weekend, including chats with the Gaslight Anthem, Arctic Monkeys and more.