I read an interview with Thurston Moore in Decibel about his love of black metal. He liked Venom back in the day & got into the scandanavian black metal when most Americans did, upon reading Lords of Chaos. Pretty familiar story. Mostly pleasantly boring, just a nerdy record collector & musician talking about one of his obsessions, but there is this one tidbit that blows my mind:
TM: I did almost get to see Striborg live in Australia, though—I just missed it by a few days. Oren Ambarchi, who plays with Sunn O))), lives in Melbourne, and he flew Striborg over from Tasmania to do a show together. I guess Oren picked him up at the airport and he was in full corspepaint regalia. [Laughs] At the show, Striborg just used a contact mic, a fuzzbox and a hi-hat or something. So I guess it was kinda raw.
It seems like the guys who create these recordings and this whole mythos about their world through these recordings, you put them under the hot lights onstage and it all kind of disappears and they’re kind of not that seasoned. Oren said it was kinda off. And then the club turned into a disco and Striborg started break-dancing. He asked him about it and Striborg told him he had been a break-dance champion as a teenager in Tasmania. So that kind of put him back into the real world. [Laughs] But I think Striborg is really representative of the loner dude out in the cabin in the woods with a Peavey amp and a four-track, making these really personal records that are about the whole world of solitude and depression and despair. But it’s also this celebration of death as an avenue after life. Some of that stuff I find fascinating in that sense—how it’s so relentless in its celebration of misery.
After reading Joshua Clover's absolutely masterful vignettessay on M.I.A. in the first issue of Lana Turner (which you should read, in my opinion), I've been thinking again about the globalized currency of pop & rock musics. That idea has been such a firm assumption for the past decade, with hip hop's travel from from the projects of NYC to every single city in the world within 25 years demonstrating the cultural interconnectedness of the middle & upper classes throughout the world.
But Striborg was a famous breakdancer in Tasmania.
If you're not a nerd like me, you've probably never heard him.
You can see some footage from a dvd of his here:
And listen to a song here:
Not everyone's cup of tea & obviously intentionally so. Striborg is a one-man band, which if you don't know is one of the lines of black metal flight. The musician's name is "Sin Nanna," which, according to some other website, is a Sumerian crescent moon god. He has created a persona & aesthetic that is almost as aggressively (& as cheesily) misanthropic as GG Allin's, though focused on personal & solitary misery, rather than Allin's FTW scatology. He attempts the grimmest, rawest black metal, bringing his music close to the anti-music skronk of no wave & the avant noise of someone like merzbow. But he is clearly tied to his lineage of black metal as well.
Black metal, all metal really, has had its own globalized narrative far different from hip hop's. It stemmed from the Scandanavian interpretation of Venom & death metal, then launching out into the world at large. It's international rise has been because of, rather than despite of, its creepy obsession with purity & exclusivity, with its limited run records & cassettes. Before the internet's leveling of access for music, it was a music solely for obsessive collectors. Just as young punks who drink the conformist kool-aid love nothing more than calling out sellouts, black metal fans seem to love calling music or artists out for not being true metal.
When I first heard Striborg on the Southern Lord reissues, Striborg seemed like the furthest possible end result of this hermetic ethos. He'd reduced the buzz & theater of black metal to its most corrupted, rankest sounds. He was not unrecognizably far off from Behreit or Rotting Christ in sound, but what made him different was that he was apparently a freaky loner, living in a shack in the rural wilds of Tasmania. Tasmania! I don't know much about Tasmania, but it hardly seems like the type of place to cultivate a freaky, avant-metal dude. But there he was.
It seemed to me to be the farflung edge of black metal's global reach (barring a one-man horde popping up in Antarctica or on Pluto). He was the fantasy of the "true" & pure black metal come to life. But now to find out that Striborg not only was a breakdancer, but is still willing to breakdance in public despite his well cultivated persona, well that shit just blows what little part of my mind can be blown by thinking about metal.
There are a couple ways to go with this. The obvious thing is that the cultivation of a hermet-live-in-a-shack-in-the-woods-Innisfree identity, while also being certain to broadcast one's hermet-live-in-a-shack-in-the-woods-Innisfree identity, is just extending the Romantic fantasy of removal from civilization. And as Moore points out, this mask is easily removed. This is no surprise.
Secondly, it is just a shock that this music was made by someone who had ever heard hip hop music, much less danced to it for a significant part of his life. It sounds so devoid of anything like awareness of rhythm or dancing. But that's silly of me.
Really, Striborg's connection to break-dancing points out how black metal is a fascinating counterpoint to the omnivorously globalized nature of hip hop music. Hip hop will steal from any kind of dance music, baille, banghra or afro-beat, as long as it will sound good in a club & sell some product. There are tons of "real hip hop" haters out there, but the global vision of hip hop is a commercialized mode of public address. The hiphop lifestyle is about a coming together & reinterpretation. It assimilates & by doing so skews the host culture into itself.
Striborg, on the other hand, has taken black metal's theatrical aesthetic & attempted to make a root form of it. This is a global artform that arose from a mishmash of northern European styles, was radicalized in France & Greece & aestheticized in the cities of the American west. It has reached fans & musicians in every continent & continues to grow. But through this, there is a retention of aesthetic. A black metal band from Brazil does not sound different than one from Korea.
Paralell to Striborg's aesthetic reductionism, he's made of himself a kind of living symbol black metal core purity. Both hip-hop & black metal are lifestyle ideologies that are caught up in the music & dress & worldview. But hip hop seeks interaction & relational progress, black metal retains its core aesthetic. A band like Striborg has become popular based on his attempt to get to the heart of "pure" black metal. Just as M.I.A. is the best pop example of the economically productive cultural power of amorphous relational aesthetics, Striborg is the example of a conservatively anti-relational aesthetic of a globalized art.
But he was willing to breakdance at the club! In corpsepaint! Which makes him extra rad! Go Striborg.
In only associatively related news, this is pretty hilarious: