Nathan Gray on Satanism, BOYSETSFIRE & New Solo LP

Nathan Gray opens up about his new solo work, the role of Satanism in his music, and the breakup of I AM HERESY.

In our first interview with BOYSETSFIRE front man Nathan Gray, we were able to unearth a myriad of fascinating information surrounding his debut solo EP, the neo-folk masterwork entitled NTHN GRY. Once more, we were fortunate enough to touch base with Nathan to discuss the philosophies that influence him as an artist, the information surrounding the break-up of I AM HERESY and some details regarding his new full-length solo album Until The Darkness Takes Us.

Tell me about what’s new.

We are playing a special show for the 50th anniversary of the Church of Satan, which I’m very excited about. I’ve been up to a ton of stuff. Between touring and working on the new material, I’m just busy all the time. I know when I say it, it doesn’t sound like that much but believe me it’s a lot (laughs).

Despite the overbearingly politically-correct directives from some of the modern day hardcore & punk bands, it’s refreshing to see an artist like yourself speaking out against the establishment rather than vivaciously advocating it.

It’s weird having to deal with people who have a very simplistic “one way or the other” kind of viewpoint. I tend to not be that way. I tend to pretty much hate all of it. I’m usually one of those guys who’s caught in the middle and I usually just like to fuck with people. Because you always have people on the right or the left or whatever who are just so completely set in their ways. They always look for those certain buzz words so they can start their arguments and waste all their energy and time getting worked up about things they can’t change. And that’s where I come in to just keep going (laughs).

What is the difference between the Church of Satan and other Satanic organizations?

If people want to run around with devil horns and black cloaks to represent themselves as a Satanist, then have fun but what we are trying to move towards as an organization is more focused around our art, music and trying to create a better life for ourselves instead of that gimmicky side of Satanism that some people are still trying to keep going. To me, Satanism is about improving one’s self. The people who rise above your average herd mentality have strong principles and hold themselves to a higher standard. Obviously Anton LaVey was the person who founded Satanism with his book and everything. But you have to be careful when you’re in an organization like that not to have it become like a cult, based around the founding member. You don’t want to be in a cult, you want to be in an ever-growing organization, you know?

Since I’m a huge I AM HERESY fan, I have to ask: why did the band break up?

I’ll be honest, I loved those days. It reminds me I guess of how I got to where I am now. It was during my really angry years, you know what I mean? And just as we discussed in the first interview, about me growing up in a very devout Christian group that was heavily involved with the Church, you kind of have to walk away from that with a little bit of anger in you. You know what I mean? Where you’re just like, “I just need to rage about this.” Aside from that, I also just wanted to do something heavier musically and those things go hand-in-hand.  The only honest issue was, I literally cannot physically do that live for a whole show anymore. I just really can’t. And it’s not even like I’m physically out of shape or anything like that, but I was having these seriously painful migraines after shows. I just couldn’t do it. Just that much screaming and that much intensity for 45 minutes is too overwhelming.

Nathan Gray at BOYSETSFIRE Family First Pre-Fest in Cologne, Germany 2015

Nathan Gray at BOYSETSFIRE Family First Pre-Fest in Cologne, Germany 2015

With BOYSETSFIRE, you have some screaming and some singing, you know? You got a little bit of up-and-down going on there, not quite as overwhelming. So there’s a rest here and there. With I AM HERESY, there was no rest, it was just go, go, go! Sometimes you just have to admit your limit. Not only that but we had the worst issues with lineups. And even beyond that, I just completely wanted to do my own thing, you know? I’m really sick of having to rely on other people.

I know you want to keep most of the details about the album secret at this time, but can you elaborate on the new solo album?

The new solo stuff embodies the whole reason why I perform on stage and why I’m a musician.  And that reason is the same reason why people ritualize.  I mean, I know you are probably well aware that in Satanism, when it comes to the use of magic through ritual, a true Satanist will perform the ritual knowing full well that they are not sacrificing or worshipping anything other than themselves. They are doing it as a psychodrama. They are doing it as a way to fulfill their desires, so when they ritualize, it’s almost like opening yourself up to get out that primal frustration and anger and lust and things of that nature.

So when I think of a Satanic ritual, I can’t help but think that’s exactly what I do! That’s exactly what my music is! It’s a way to just scream and get all that shit out. There is lesser magic and greater magic in Satanism. Greater magic being the more dramatic and lesser magic being more focused on controlling your environment. Like, how you manipulate certain situations in the world around you in a way that helps you succeed. And it just kept hitting me, “This describes exactly what music is” and what it’s always been for me personally.

Nathan Gray at BOYSETSFIRE Family First Pre-Fest in Cologne, Germany 2015

Nathan Gray at BOYSETSFIRE Family First Pre-Fest in Cologne, Germany 2015

Also, as you may have noticed from the couple of times that we have spoken: I’m not too interested in the “spooky” side of Satanism, so to speak. I do have a real love and a real passion for the philosophy of it. And the real philosophy and the real meaning behind it that inspired me on a level where I just said, “OK, I’m going to create this Satanic music that no one is going to point to and immediately go, ‘Oh, that’s Satanic,’ you know what I mean?

But at the same time, you come to see the show and there are skulls and candles and stuff like that. But it’s all very meaningful. It’s done with the idea that the stage is a ritual chamber, and the skulls represent the fact that at some point we are all going to die. The very moment we are born we prepare ourselves for death. It’s just a natural part of life. Some people find it depressing, but I find it enlightening and I find it very energizing to know that at some point I’m going to be done. And knowing that my time on this planet is limited, it gives me that extra incentive to say to myself, “You had better fucking get off your ass and do something important.”

After this European tour is completed with BOYSETSFIRE, we are going to be taking a very healthy hiatus. And I will be focusing on the new solo stuff…It’s just going to have a heavier and bigger sound. We will also be experimenting with electronics and the meshing of acoustic guitars with heavy guitars. It’s been a really cool experience. There’s a little bit of rock to what we do. A little bit more of a groove, and a dance feel to it. We’ve really created something of our own now. With the EP, it was a lovely EP and I love the songs dearly and it felt like we were growing into something, but we weren’t quite there yet. And like now we are making a full-length album and we are really finding out who we are. Our sound has matured in so many ways. I’m really excited for people to hear it.

For more, follow Nathan Gray at http://nathangraysongs.com/

photos courtesy of Kirsten Otto

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