Ride For Revenge
by Niklas Göransson
A conversation with Harald Mentor – counterculture entrepreneur, filmmaker, and long-time veteran of Finnish black metal and power electronics, known mostly from his work with sonic terrorists Ride for Revenge.
– These days we either record lots of ‘traditional’ RIDE FOR REVENGE material all at once or work on collaborations and more experimental material for longer stretches, there’s no one way of doing it. Most of the previous two LPs, “Ageless Powers Arise” and “Thy Horrendous Yearning”, were recorded in a few days. Since then I’ve only written music for various collaborations and more experimental releases – all of which will be announced later – but no new full-band studio album in three years now. However, this summer we’ll finally be putting to tape plenty of fresh material. Being productive is the main thing for me now, bringing all this filth together properly. I enjoy playing live sometimes but the biggest drawback is how it really disrupts the flow of recording.
Speaking of which, RIDE FOR REVENGE recently played California two nights in a row. Judging from Harald’s account, the weekend appears to have offered plenty of excitement both on and in front of stage.
– We had to cancel a show scheduled for New York a few years ago and since then I’ve had every intention of playing the States. This time, conditions were right and the trip proved well worth it! We may still do New York at some point too. The promoters asked if we’d be up for an additional show in case the first sold out, it did so we played two nights in a row – killer! On the first evening there was both self-inflicted and unintended mutilation in the front row; lots of blood, I still have it all over my boots. We sometimes have that effect on people.
I can see how that could happen. After watching a video of RIDE FOR REVENGE in some manner of live collaboration with Finnish power electronics deviants BIZARRE UPROAR, I’m sure I too would’ve felt somewhat surgically inclined had I found myself in front of those carryings-on.
– Put RIDE FOR REVENGE and BIZARRE UPROAR together and something nasty is bound to happen! We did two shows together last year – including latex, piss, heads dipped in bowls of blood, dead rats rubbed against female genitalia and whatnot. The first was rather controlled but at the second one we did, Steelchaos 2017, things might have gotten slightly out of hand with one performer shitting on another and then throwing faeces into the crowd. It even made national newspapers and television talk-shows here in Finland! Not that this was in any way our purpose, but it did. BIZARRE UPROAR can be very obscene and the combination with us on a big festival stage was kinda shocking for the unexpecting attendance. Normally the oh-so-dangerous black metal is just entertainment and a backdrop for socialising with beer in hand, hah!
When recording – how much time do you spend searching for the right guitar and bass tones, drum sound, and so forth?
-Sound of amplifier and microphone placement are decided very fast – we just plug ’em in and switch everything on and that’s pretty much it, but then afterwards we make the best out of it with EQ, mixing, effects, whatever. We used the same approach in the very beginning, minus post-production, but mainly due to not really knowing any better. Years later I got an education in this field but still stick to the same approach because, first off, we’re used to this method and, secondly, it kinda ensures that the sound is a bit weird and fucked up. In a good sense! I also place a few extra mics a little further from the amp to get it intentionally out-of-phase, run other mics through different distortion pedals, and so on. There are many ways we go about in creating this but it always sounds like RIDE FOR REVENGE and no one else. Careless methods applied meticulously and breaking the rules where maximum damage is inflicted.
Surmising their recording budget to perhaps not be astronomical, I’m curious what kind of equipment Harald and his cohorts have scraped together – whether they use specific amps, pedals and so forth or if it’s more the case of the cheapest available they can make do with.
-Totally depends. We might use the most expensive hand-made stuff or cheapest possible bulk. There’s really no one way of doing things and I love the combination of cheap and expensive, lo-fi and hi-fi. Basically, we use whatever stands at our disposal and then experiment from there. I hate assholes who want to purchase the same amps and guitars as their heroes, are complete yuppies about some stupid brands, and generally come off sounding like pale imitations of said idols: fuck off weak cunts! Use your will and imagination to rise above the pack, don’t live as sheep. There’s still a lot of innovation left to discover.
Speaking for myself here obviously, but what makes RIDE FOR REVENGE so effective is the base of primal black metal fused with these hazily hypnotic walls of sound and almost tribal, ritualistic percussion.
-Those are the elements I’ve always found the most appealing – there was and still is plenty left to discover within these grounds. There was a void that required filling and this need comes from deep within us. There were of course musical influences but no one else ever walked so far on this path before. I’m bound to this sort of primal, ritualistic, sexual, and repetitive trance-inducing style. Holy fuck, I am so looking forward to starting the new recordings!
Have you experienced an actual trance state yourself?
-Sure. When the volume has been turned up and the riff is powerful and repeated often enough I can enter a trance or at least trance-like state, even without any psychedelic drugs and such. I experimented with some of those many years ago and even tried some self-induced trances like breathing techniques… but a heavy and repetitive riff, that’s where the true magic lies. Hail the riff! Drugs may break your mind and ruin your body but the riff will steal your soul.
One topic which has seen plenty of prior discussion on Bardo Methdology is psychoacoustics, the understanding of music and sound as stimulus to the human nervous system – with binaural beats being one example. I’d be curious to behold what a notorious sonic terrorist such as Harald could do with it.
– Yes, I know a little about this. “Street Hassle” by Lou Reed has a binaural production, I like that album a lot for some reason and have read about his binaural obsession at the time. DEATHKEY used the same technology. But that’s pretty much the full scope of my knowledge about it. I have in my possession lots of weird instruments not really meant for music, like old oscillators that cover ranges below as well as above human hearing. We’ve also used guitar effects and primitive synths with weird frequencies in RIDE FOR REVENGE but never gave much thought if they have any psychoacoustic qualities, so in the event of anyone reading this vomiting blood or shitting their pants in the midst of the listening experience – please report! Some of our recordings cause a little uneasy and disoriented feeling even for ourselves.
Harald is able to play all traditional rock instruments – and several more to boot – but bass is his primary weapon of choice. I’ve found there to be a very specific type of person who’s drawn to the bass guitar.
-Yes, a specific type of brainless Neanderthal – that’s me. I fell in love with the instrument when listening to thrash metal and crossover in the eighties. The first riffs I learned to play, using only one guitar string, were the bass intros to “Milk” (S.O.D.) and “Caught in the Mosh” (ANTHRAX). Later, listening intently to Geezer Butler (BLACK SABBATH) and Rainy from DISCHARGE really blew my mind. Cronos of VENOM has a very noisy style. Then PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN, NEANDERTHAL and MAN IS THE BASTARD: no return. I’m not very skilled with most other instruments but good enough to play the kind of music I want to. Even on bass I’m not very technically proficient but I have my own brutal style and am not afraid of making weird noises and fills. For me its function goes well beyond that of just a rhythm instrument, I like bass solos too; you can be really creative with it.
Besides recording all music on his own, Harald also releases it through his own label – Bestial Burst. One gets the impression that pretty much everything he does is carried out in the spirit of DIY.
– It comes out of pure necessity, neither my bands nor other projects have ever had much mainstream backing and those that did mostly failed due to outside involvement. So yes, to get things done you pretty much have to do them yourself – or with your closest and most reliable friends. Cooperation with truly like-minded labels is never a problem, as can be seen from the many licensing deals and collaborations we’ve done. Starting out with my own activities, the first bands I had were noisecore and noisy hardcore which was always a very non-profit DIY environment. I also made ‘zines in Finnish as well as all kinds of compilation tapes, so naturally all this has shaped me as an artist and a producer. Being in full control means that shit gets done, I’ve also found limited resources to be more inspiring and thought-provoking than big budgets and nice equipment. It spurs creativity and innovation on a whole different level, finding things where you normally wouldn’t even be looking for them.
Is it possible to carve out a living through your label and music projects?
– I’ve been in and out of regular jobs and educations my entire adult life. At the moment, I don’t have anything besides the odd driver’s gig every now and then or something similarly minor so I’m kinda looking for part-time employment to help make ends meet, so to speak. There’s certainly no huge pressure to take on just any shitty work that happens to come along. But yes, at the moment I have to live mostly off the label and my bands – which can be a financial pain in the ass nowadays. My days are generally spent putting together new Bestial Burst releases, recording different projects, occasionally doing mastering jobs or even recordings for other bands. I’m also in regular contact with artists from my roster, as well as other labels. I handle RIDE FOR REVENGE merch, set up shows for bands… then records and CDs have to be packed, and so on. So yeah, that’s what I do – my comfort zone, haha! I’ve been running some kind of label or band activity since 1992.
Among his many creative pursuits, Harald is also a radio host – Death to Posers Radio. The second-year anniversary show back in January was the last to air so I hope the project hasn’t been discontinued. Besides the interesting blend of music, I hail the thick Finnish accent permeating oration which somehow manages to sound passionate and emotionless at the same time.
– I already hosted some Meteliä Maan Alta (Noise from the Underground) shows in ‘real’ FM radio, Lähiradio in Helsinki, years ago. So, after moving out from Helsinki I still wanted to do radio stuff and founded the Death to Posers podcast – first in Finnish and now English. After that last show you mentioned I’ve moved to a new location, done tours, travelled and simply lost motivation. I’ve been meaning to record more episodes but I’m waiting for inspiration. So, probably not dead yet!
I also heard that you’re an aspiring film-maker on top of everything else?
– Yes, I’ve made two documentaries: Romua, Ruiskeita ja Rutinaa (Noise of Finland) – about the Finnish noise, industrial, and power electronics scene – and Loputon Gehennan Liekki (Eternal Flame of Gehenna) about Finnish black metal. I was in sound-class of the Film and TV school, I had my chance and took it. Both were made with almost zero budget and came out raw but great. They had lots of screenings in Finland, even a couple of festivals before sold-out audiences, and the DVD edition containing both of them did really well, at least for being a Finnish underground documentary, so this venture must be considered a great success. There have been plans for more documentaries during a number of years already, but nothing decided as of yet. I’d like to do more but conditions must be right.
It seems to me that black metal, DYI counterculture, and power electronics has closer ties in Finland than elsewhere. Harald’s approach strikes me as very similar to that of a previous interviewee – Mikko Aspa of CLANDESTINE BLAZE and Northern Heritage. Both multi-instrumentalists, active within the power electronics scene, running labels and zines as well as various operations pertaining to sexual deviancy.
– We’ve actually known each other since 1993, I would’ve been seventeen or eighteen back then and Mikko a couple of years younger. Both lived in the small town of Imatra and there were only a handful of people doing ‘zines, compilation tapes, and starting out with their first noisy bands and projects. We two were the youngest and most enthusiastic! He’s also pretty much the only one I never lost contact with over the years, we’ve always had some kind of collaboration going on. I have huge respect for that man. Mikko always wanted to keep different styles separated, which is why he has a different label name for each genre. I’m a product of 80s crossover-culture and also far more chaotic and less organised as an individual, so using different elements mixed together is no problem for me as long as it works. And yes, Finland seems to have closer ties between these cultures – not that we ever actively sought a fusion of different genres or anything like that, it just happened naturally.
Harald believes himself and Mikko to have wrought some influence over the younger generation who now organise events with such diverse genres.
– Many of them started getting into the extreme underground by ordering stuff from Mikko’s labels Freak Animal and Northern Heritage as well as my Hostile Regression, Bestial Burst, etcetera; they later began setting up shows with their friends and favourite artists, who pretty much knew each other by then anyway. Much of this came to be as a result from outside pressure, when the oh-so-sensitive ethos of today led to sexually offensive power electronics, patriotic black metal, violent hardcore punk, and even neofolk kind-of-artists playing unofficial or low-profile gigs together since no rock clubs were willing to take a chance on elements branded ‘unsafe’. It brought many dangerous minds together – these sorts of events are my very favourite.