Seraphim System has been tearing up the industrial scene with a healthy dose of "Fuck You" ever since his self-released albums Excessive Force and Eradicate With Extreme Prejudice. Solo member of the band BL4KJ4K has been doing what he wants how he wants with the band all the while experimenting with genres from dubstep to metal to hip-hop. All that and the help of a few friends led to Seraphim System's signing to DWA as well as his stellar live performance at Resistanz 2016. With so much going on with Seraphim System, I was able to get a chat with BL4KJ4K on history, his latest album, and his thoughts on critical reception.
Simple introductions are always a good place to start. Give us a little general knowledge on Seraphim System, the genre(s) you perform, and what your favorite brand of booze might be.
BL4KJ4K: Seraphim System was the mechanical bastard child of two teenage rivetheads consisting of myself and a good friend Josh Eliott (B4TH0RY). He moved to California and started making electro house and I kept cranking out dark electro tunes. At first I made your average, run of the mill industrial-techno-four-on-the-floor stuff (Excessive Force) and then started seeing how far I could push the envelope by experimenting with and adding in different styles. After Excessive Force I started incorporating everything from drum'n'bass, hardcore, hip-hop, dubstep, glitch, even moombahcore into the original music and remixes I made. I know some people get salty about deviating from the normal sound in EBM/Industrial but I always want my music to sound different and new, so I don’t give a fuck if people don’t like it. Also I like incredibly dry hoppy IPAs and anything with whiskey. I will drink out of a dead horse’s ass if it has Jack Daniel’s in it.
You have a huge dedication to heavy electro/bass music as “Automaton Assisted Annihilation” shows, but I believe you also play the guitar (correct me if I'm wrong). What did you learn to experiment with first; acoustic instruments or electronic? And what led you to take interest in the other?
BL4KJ4K: When I was nine my grandfather gave me an acoustic guitar and I immediately fell in love with it. Over the next few years I went from caring about sports to wanting to learn classical music and I obsessed over Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Like any teenager, I later became rebellious and started a punk band where I played guitar with some friends. When I was about seventeen, I was driving around in my car listening to a college radio station and they played Apoptygma Berzerk’s 'Unicorn'. I was then thrust into a brand new world I would come to love -- Industrial. I remember I called the radio station to ask what song it was they had just played. I still play acoustic guitar all the time and actually really love Bluegrass and old Country music like Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. Cyborg in body, redneck at heart.
You've got a wide range of influences under your belt. Again, heavy bass, hard hitting electro, sci-fi concepts, and even hip-hop blends into your music. Did you always know Seraphim System would deliver music like this? Or was it always just an extremely happy experimental accident?
I know that some musicians like to have multiple forms of media playing when they create music; I've heard some watch movies, play other music while creating their own, or even just have pets distract them. When you create your music, do you solely focus on the music?
BL4KJ4K: I had a dual monitor setup and watched porn on mute while making 'Bitchmade', 'Crunk For Cyborgs', and 'H34R71355' from Deadly Force. Automaton Assisted Annihilation’s writing process involved a lot of drug usage. And fella, I do mean a LOT of drugs. Sometimes I won’t write or record anything for weeks and I'll just listen to nothing but Frank Sinatra to completely cleanse my creative palette. I’ll take myself completely out of the realm of dark electro and listen to Sacred Choral from Hildegarde Von Bingen or American World War 2 era swing music for days on end. When I come back to the project at hand, it’s like I made a hard reset on a video game console. What I start making is off the cuff and sporadic because of it. I told a German guy in an interview once that I did a lot of methamphetamine and committed armed robberies to get in the writing spirit and he didn’t see the sarcasm and I think he got a little scared.
I'm backing up a little getting history, but what led to Seraphim System's creation? Why choose the name? Basically, give us a history lesson on Seraphim System.
BL4KJ4K: Originally, I had met this crazy dude in 2005 (he was legit insane) and talked about making music with him. He had got Josh to play drums for the project and Josh and I became inseparable friends. Josh and I got tired of the dude’s crazy fucking antics and formed our own duo. We didn’t have any idea or goal in mind, had a cracked version of Fruity Loops at our disposal, and just made heavy beats with horror movie samples since that’s what all the cool bands were doing at the time. It was so bad. Actually no, it was absolutely god-awful. We had no idea what we were doing but we loved doing it. We didn’t have a name for the longest time and I was into the occult and Goetic magick. A book I had on the subject had a ritual called Invoking The Seraphim. Something about it just jumped out of the page and latched onto my soul and I loved that word: Seraphim. I added in System because, you know. Machines. Industrial. As an eighteen year old cybergoth I kinda had to.
Seraphim System first released Excessive Force back in 2013. Prior to 2013, did you work on any other Seraphim Systems songs/demos that already has or might see the light of day in the future?
BL4KJ4K: Josh and I had made a bunch of shitty songs that ended up as a shitty thirteen track untitled demo. I lost those CDs to the ages and don’t have the original files. I moved into the realm of EDM after Josh moved and started producing dubstep and drum n bass. If I found our old stuff on CD, I’d probably upload it for a few good laughs with all the bad horror movie samples and cheesy terror EBM sounding songs we cranked out at the time thinking, “MAN, THIS IS SO GOOD!” But it wasn’t. Oohhhhh, boy it wasn’t.
What was reception like for Seraphim System when the project first started out? I know it's hard as shit to get press coverage from time to time, but how did Seraphim System do according to critics and fans alike?
BL4KJ4K: I posted the Excessive Force album to Reddit and it sat at the top of the Industrial Music subreddit for days when it first came out. I gained a pretty considerable following in Russia. I translated a lot of reviews from Russian music blogs and they were praising the album. I got some bad reviews which initially bummed me out but as an artist you just have to roll with knowing not everyone’s gonna dig what you’re doing. Moscow and St. Petersburg people really loved it. I had a lot of fellow underground artists wanting to collab, and I took them up on it. I’d say it was eighty percent likers, and 20 percent shit talkers, respectively. Good odds as any for someone fresh on the scene. STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM NOW WE kinda sorta figuring things out but with a moderate, um, degree of success.
You've had two releases under DWA so far, Automaton Assisted Annihilation and Deadly Force. How did you get signed to DWA? Did they approach you or did you go to them? And how has it been working with DWA? Good or bad?
BL4KJ4K: I found this Swedish band called Rave The Reqviem and listened to some music of theirs. I took a shot in the dark messaging their singer, Filip, to see if I could remix a tune of theirs. He sent me a kit and I knocked out a banger. I sent the finished product back to him and he loved it. We became great friends and I asked him if he could pass along Deadly Force for me since it had been completed at the time, he said that he’d help me out, and the rest is history. I started meeting people from the label, remixing their tunes, and created a massive friend base of kick-fucking-ass musicians from all over the world. DWA has been an absolute dream to work with. They help me out a great deal and l and have mad respect for all my talented and DEAD SEXY label mates. I’m looking at you Filip, Edwin Alter, and Jay Ruin.
Deadly Force and Automaton Assisted Annihilation both released in 2015; the first in January and the next in November. Why did you have two albums release in such a short frame? Did you really receive any complaints about that or was more Seraphim System celebrated?
BL4KJ4K: That was all the business side of the label, which I had nothing to really do with. I just make the beats and the label does the magic legal shit. Deadly Force was a lot of sitting around and waiting on legal stuff, so I had plenty of time to make new stuff to add to that, Deadly Force had been done a LONG time before Automaton Assisted Annihilation dropped, so for the longest era I was working on AAA. People didn’t seem to care, though. I was afraid fans might get locked into an idea of thinking I was gonna drop albums with that kinda quickness and I’m here to say THAT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. I gotta recharge and refuel.
And, since AAA is your most recent album, let's talk about that a little. How did you evolve Seraphim System's sound in AAA to become something new? What did you do differently?
BL4KJ4K: AAA’s very first track I worked on was 'The Reaper' and I had the idea of making it in the same image as Deadly Force; four on the floor, club heavy electro. I was with some of my rapper friends one night having an afterparty at my apartment. I started showing them some of the music I was working on. One of them suggested I slow the beats down and turn them into a hardcore, industrial, mechanical sounding hip-hop. 'Come Up And Get Me' was originally much faster - around 130 BPM - and I knocked it down to 87 BPM. I took out all of the basses and replaced them with those massive distorted kicks you hear in the first breakdown. My eyes lit up and I immediately started dropping rhymes over the beat. My rapper friends were trading freestyle bars over it. It was fucking mental. I knew I could never go back and HAD to make most of the album like that. AAA’s end goal, and personal project as an artist, then became the blending of as many unorthodox fusions with industrial as I could possibly make. Swaggrotech crew, keep it smashin.
You seem to build a universe surrounding both Seraphim System and the music you create under the moniker. Is there any underlying theme or concept behind AAA? Or is it more or less a collection of random songs?
BL4KJ4K: I’m a Dungeons and Dragons, high fantasy, and science fiction nerd so normally I like to make histories and put a creative edge to everything. In this parallel universe there’s a race of sentient beings which create the Seraphim to detect and eliminate intelligent life from planets and galaxies throughout the universe. Their philosophy is that, through their extensive knowledge of the cosmos, living organisms are habitually proven to evolve into violent and hostile creatures which exist to destroy and consume. Living things will become smarter and move to a new planet when they have exhausted the resources on their own. When this alien race makes the Seraphim they first willingly allow themselves to be annihilated before the Seraphim leave on their eternal hunt. The Seraphim mine and collect resources to continually build their immortal armies on the planets that they consume. Automaton Assisted Annihilation is their arrival to earth and the carnage which ensues on our home planet. I have a lot of free time, by the way.
I always enjoy asking this question to musicians. How do you personally feel about AAA? Do you think it's your magnum opus, or does it stick out as one of your least favorite releases?
BL4KJ4K: Automaton Assisted Annihilation is without a doubt my most favorite album to date. The creative process as well as the production process was nothing short of cathartic. The experimentation, the delivery, writing lyrics and rapping them with the sound of a conquering war machine on an extinction-level bender was a mental high. My least favorite release when I think about it would be Excessive Force. There’s just so much different that I would have done and in retrospect it’s just kinda bland and boring. Excessive Force was more of a random collection of songs. I’m in the writing process of my next album right now and every day I’m trying something different. I can’t wait to see this through. I might put surf rock on the next album. Fuck it. Say I won’t.
Up next is a question concerning critics; how have media sites and the like handled AAA so far? Have you heard anything good or bad about the music that has really stuck out?
BL4KJ4K: I’m not gonna lie, I do google my band to see what people are saying about it. The general consensus is that people really love it but can’t play it in clubs. It’s too heavy and not stompy enough. That’s the only real concern I have heard thus far. Everyone that came up to me at Resistanz said it was fresh and something that they needed because it wasn’t in the realm of the current accepted norm or what other bands sounded like. I’ve read a few reviews that said it’s too far out of the realm of modern industrial they’re used to and it’s just not their cup of tea. I get that. I don’t like tequila, but other people enjoy it. Can’t fault them for preference. I’ve read a small amount of reviews bashing it, but you gotta remind yourself that some people just wake up in the morning to hate on shit and these folks are just sad assholes. “Fuck a hater, we’re fighters to the last of what matters / Fuck a hater and what crowds want to encounter”.
I and many others heard about the amazing Resistanz show you played along with the incredible reception you received for playing the Terminator 2 Theme Song Remix. How did the experience make you feel? I would imagine it was almost surreal and quite unbelievable.
BL4KJ4K: Unbe-fucking-lieveable. To see the reaction to a remix I made of my favorite movie of all time was a life experience for sure. Even just being at the festival I was thinking of how I used to listen to half of these artists in my car while driving to work. Now I’m good friends with these guys and just sitting here kicking it with them. It’s just a “What’s next?” moment. I had no idea I would ever get to be where I am and I’m trying to wrap my head around it. I was nervous and scared before I got on stage because I thought everyone would think my music was too different but as it turns out, they loved the cyberkinetic rap flow freshness. Some parts full body high and some parts nervous enough to puke all over myself. It’s the only way I can get off.
Speaking of live shows, what else have you planned for Seraphim System in that department? Do you have any gigs and/or tours planned right now?
BL4KJ4K: I want to get out on the road. I’m a rambler by nature. There’s options in the mix. Being in one place for too long drives me fucking insane. I’m talking with people about gigs in Italy and Germany next so that’s on the table. On the homefront, there are some shows coming through my state that I’m getting on so it’s always busy. GET ME IN YOUR CITIES, FAM. HIT ME UP.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time and the space below is yours in case I failed to mention anything. Cheers!
BL4KJ4K: Thanks for chatting, keep the stellar underground music news flowing, eat healthy, eat the fucking rich, fuck bad bitches, make war, do drugs, do nothing, do everything, embrace the void, do something outlandish, life is meaningless so enjoy the ride, add me on Snapchat to see stupid shit I do on the daily (poperotiq), and most of all: Always be different. Now I’m gonna go drink more gin and push neighborhood kids off their bikes.
May 03 2016
...on tour you live excessively, faster than real life, you suck it all in and ride the bomb, so to speak, and after the touring is done, you spit it all back out in the studio, however, it has undergone a process of digestion in the meantime, and that is the motivational momentum for me.
KMFDM, Apr 25 2011
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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