by Niklas Göransson
Heavenly despair and blasphemous perversion; a discussion on the theme of what could’ve been. Introducing Paul Ledney, the beating pulse of legendary US black metal deviants Profanatica.
The following is an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #4. The same issue also includes conversations with PRIMORDIAL, SOLSTICE, Götz Kühnemund, Louise Brown, THERION, KATATONIA, BLACK FUNERAL, COUNTESS, Stockholm Slaughter, MARDUK, TAAKE, and Howard Lawler.
When we enter the conversation, Paul has just been talking about their September 1992 studio visit, in which PROFANATICA were to record their debut album. Alas, with everything tracked and only mixing remaining, discord arose among the ranks. There are conflicting reports on what exactly happened from this point on but it ultimately resulted in the master tape being wiped, allegedly with a magnet, erasing from earthly existence the entire recording.
– Many people in my surroundings urged me to find new musicians and re-record the album – to finish it at any and all cost – but I was feeling beat down and chose not to listen, I just wanted to forget about everything and move on. Had I retained my drive back then, the roles might’ve been reversed and things could’ve gone down very differently, for sure. Osmose were really pushing bands like PROFANATICA, BLASPHEMY, ABSU, IMPALED NAZARENE, etcetera. We also had BEHERIT and, of course, before that, SARCÓFAGO who brought true blasphemy into the genre.
While we got to hear some of the erased material re-recorded on “Dethrone the Son of God”, the 1993 record from Paul’s new project HAVOHEJ, the name PROFANATICA had some real momentum going in Europe around that time. As Paul points out there’s an argument to be made that, had it seen a late 1992 release, their debut could potentially have left a significant dent in black metal history. Touring Europe as an Osmose band in support of a studio album during a time when the genre was really taking off, we could’ve been talking about them in a similar way as other second-wave bands contracted by the same label at that time – especially considering their notorious live antics. Australian lunatics SADISTIK EXEKUTION toured Europe once, in 1995, and this madness was spoken about for a decade afterwards. Besides the unhinged nature of their stage show, many have also pointed out that early-90s PROFANATICA in concert was a beast to be reckoned with; especially after they’d recruited a second guitarist.
– I often think about that myself. Around that time, the second wave of black metal hadn’t really hit; it was happening, for sure, but the full explosion had yet to come. There was no way of telling what was going to happen. All of the bands were doing their own thing and that was it, there were no copycats around at that point. Looking back, I strongly feel that if it hadn’t been for the hundreds of DARKTHRONE clones appearing all of a sudden then the second wave would’ve shifted drastically. VENOM would have been acknowledged as the true creators of black metal instead of BATHORY. It’s just the way things worked out; after the Euro-style was popularised, other bands who weren’t following this format ended up pushed aside. It became very trendy and people spoke with a lot of authority on the subject. For me, the roots of black metal come from VENOM – period – with influences and ideas dating back to the first BLACK SABBATH LP.
I found several early-90s comments from Paul describing himself as a connoisseur of ‘pleasurable perversion’, including mentions that he sought to make metal ‘more black and perverse’. It’s impressive to retrospectively note how he, from the very beginning, managed to fuse his preferential deviancies rather seamlessly with black metal aesthetics and concepts. I spoke to someone who’d recently met Paul and he remarked on his proclivity to ‘keep steering the conversation towards weird sex stuff’, giving me little reason to assume a cessation of this interest.
– Ha, that’s funny! Steering the conversation is something I’m an expert at. I don’t know who you’ve been speaking to but there was probably a reason behind this; maybe they were talking about something that’s boring to me, like gear or some similar shit. As for my interests, I can only say that I’m pretty much the same person I always was – only smarter.
One connection I was previously unaware of, but which makes total sense, is that Paul once played the drums in a GG Allin backup band called THE CONNECTICUT COCKSUCKERS. The ensemble was initially assembled to record an EP back in 1988.
– We recorded several tracks but he never got to sing on them. When GG showed up to the studio, for some reason he’d brought a band of his own along with him. We were insulted, thinking like, ‘Who the fuck are these guys?’ I’m not sure what they were working on but we urged him to use us and not them because we were really tight and had our material down. He attracted a lot of scumbags and along with that came very crappy players. Sadly, when the moment came for him to sing on the tracks, something happened with the microphone and the studio had no backup mic. I wasn’t present at the time because I’d gotten kicked in the chest and slept sitting up with broken ribs. But Malcolm Tent (PROFANATICA bassist, 2001– 2006) was there and really pressed GG to stay and finish the vocals but he insisted on leaving – all the while assuring Malcolm he’d be back. This almost turned into an argument but GG won and left. Of course, he never returned so we have the original tracks but without vocals.
Did you get to know him personally?
– Yes, I considered him a friend. We had quite a lot of correspondence and he’d send me old flyers and videos anytime I asked, very generous. I hand-picked his live set-list and he approved. He told me to do it, so I mostly pulled out shit from the SCUMFUCS era. Our original songs were very much in the same style – at the time we were all young and listened to a lot of bands like SIEGE, POISON IDEA, and so on. At one point I remember writing down a list of suggested song-titles and handing it to him, he loved my ideas and wanted to know who’d come up with them. Now I wish I’d kept a copy. Sorry for rambling on about this but thoughts have come screaming back in my head. Oh, one extra bit of info: he’d be like, ‘Dude, let’s do some country shit in the set to break it up.’ I was like, ‘Fuck that, we’re into heavy shit!’ Of course, this wasn’t to his face but over the phone, ha!
Speaking of the heavy shit, I’d like to know if Paul Ledney still, after all this time, considers himself a metalhead.
– I’m absolutely still a metalhead – there are some very good new bands popping up. However, I must say I’m not into any of this ‘post-black metal’ at all. In fact, whoever said that was okay to do in the first place? Certainly not me. It exists though, and normally I don’t have to deal with this shit but if I hear it I’ll immediately ask someone to turn that shit off. Sometimes it’s played in between bands at gigs and I always notice it, ha! But yes, still to this day I remain highly susceptible to the primal aspects of metal. We love the raging heat, pounding beats, perverted blasphemies, and so on – what we don’t like is icy winds, woodland poetry, and torch-lit strolls while gazing at the fucking moon. Nonsense.
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #4. The same issue also includes conversations with PRIMORDIAL, SOLSTICE, Götz Kühnemund, Louise Brown, THERION, KATATONIA, BLACK FUNERAL, COUNTESS, Stockholm Slaughter, MARDUK, and TAAKE.