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Ophiuchi interview (05/2021)


With: Ophiuchi
Conducted by: Netzach (skype)
Published: 15.05.2021

Band profile:

Ophiuchi


Having reviewed both of Ophiuchi's albums with nary a complaint about them, and having fallen in love with his new release Shibboleth to the point of listening nearly exclusively for a month, he seemed the perfect victim for my first ever interview. I wanted to pick his brain about why his music just sounds so damn good, about the mythological and spiritual themes in his music, about King Crimson... Great minds think alike, so we had a video call by way of Zoom and ended up picking each other's brains (you're welcome for the mental image) for two hours until I got a stray polyrhythm to the face and needed stitches.



Shibboleth cover art print


Netzach: I'll settle for your alias "Kepler" as it is far easier to pronounce than Ophiuchi. How have you liked the response to Shibboleth so far?

Kepler: It's always a bit of a feeling of walking to the local marketplace without your trousers on, in terms of exposure, but on the whole I think it has been overwhelmingly positive. Really nothing to complain about.

Netzach: I know that my response was very positive anyway. I've read some other reviews and most seem to think you have done a great job.

Kepler: I'm always a little unsure how to react to extreme positivity towards my work. You can't expect to release something and have it fall within the tastes of everyone. If you release any kind of metal, or extreme music, and don't piss anybody off in the process, then you really have done something wrong.

Netzach: Yes, and they probably wouldn't like it nearly as much as they would have if you'd instead done it with some passion. So, I was actually going to start by asking you how many arms you've grown by now, but considering what you revealed by email about the production process... maybe you didn't really need six arms to play those drums?

Kepler: No, definitely not, considering that they're programmed! I'm happy for this project to retain an aura of mystery by not shoving myself into people's faces; I think it is important especially for this style of music. Social media has destroyed that mystery to a large extent. That, and the modern tendency to tell, not show. Not knowing is more fun than knowing, since your imagination can fill in the gaps. I also won't be dishonest when it comes to my process and my abilities. I can't read music, I've never tabbed anything, and I know two scales, but I don't know their names. So I do everything by ear. I could've got a drummer to help with composition or tracking parts, but this is the one project where I have creative control over everything, so I prefer to just program the drums, and it makes the entire thing much more portable, being only one person. I don't need to rely on anyone else. Plus, I don't have to buy a drum kit, and playing a drum kit in this apartment would probably get me arrested.

Netzach: Or evicted, at least. You mentioned that on the debut, the drums and percussion were completely programmed. On Shibboleth the drum tracks are still programmed, and you also added extra percussion in a quite creative way…

Kepler: No, arrested, because I own the apartment. Right. I wanted some live percussion on the album, but I don't yet own any percussion instruments, so I have a charango which is a kind of South American mandolin.

Netzach: Well, you could always evict yourself. Is that the sitar-like instrument that we hear on the record?

Kepler: Yes and no. The charango is a small mandolin and I played percussion on it the way that people would do on the body of an acoustic guitar. So I miked that up, and I liked the sound of it. It didn't sound like any other percussion instrument, so I decided to keep it. In terms of the sitar, there is a sitar, but not a real sitar. It's a Danelectro Baby Sitar; basically an electric guitar with a buzz bridge so you get the sitar sound, but with the familiarity of an electric guitar. I don't think its parts are too obvious, I mostly use it for background drones. There's a fair amount of moments on both albums where what people seem to think is one thing is in fact something else entirely. For example, there are no synthesisers on the album.

Netzach: Yeah, I realised that after I wrote the review, because I mentioned synth pads in the title track, but when revisiting the album I was like "ah, shit, there's no synth in this…"

Kepler: (laughs) No, no synthesisers. It's all guitar and bass effects. I also think that a lot of what people perceive to be guitar is in fact bass. The final track from the debut, called "Obol", had the working title "Bass Song" because it has almost no guitars in it. Even what you might think is rhythm guitar is in fact bass.

Netzach: Okay, so, how to make it sound like what it is not, and fool everybody this way?

Kepler: Well… use more gain! (laughs) With gain staging you can really manage a lot.

Netzach: Right, of course… The expanded clean vocals did a lot of good I think, was the decision to use more of them a consequence of you feeling more certain as a vocalist?

Kepler: Definitely. If there is a stereotypical vocalist, I'm not it, but the confidence levels were a lot better this time round. However... I also wanted to expand the vocal palette, especially with layering my voice to build choirs. I've also had a long-standing fascination with Mongolian throat singing, and while I don't have the skill to sing like that, it was certainly an inspiration for a number of other ideas.

[While transcribing the video recording, I realised a black cat with emerald eyes had been joining in on our conversation in a typically sneaky feline fashion and followed up on it. He is called Mikhail (after Gorbachev), and Kepler and his wife also has a cat named Katya. Kepler ascribes this to going through a Russian literature phase at the time. Hello there, Mikhail!]

Netzach: In our mail conversation you made it clear that this is very much a home-brew recording.

Kepler: Yes, very much, although I've finally bought myself a newer interface. I've been working with the same cheap little PreSonus interface [that Shibboleth was also recorded on] for more than 10 years now. I've always found that when working on miking technique, recording, acoustics, and learning the craft of mixing, you reap more benefits for a better mix than, say, better preamps. With a better interface you have better drivers, preamp and A/D conversion, but past a certain point, if you're not using any outboard gear then you don't really need all this as much as you need to skill up on other aspects of the craft. Like… no preamp will fix shitty miking or bad room acoustics.

Netzach: Generally, you shouldn't need post-production or mixing to salvage a recording that does not sound good already before all that. If it doesn't, better go back to basics, learn the parts and re-record it.

Kepler: Yes, definitely. One thing I don't do is performance manipulation. I refuse to pitch-correct vocals, I never time-correct because it's easier to just re-track, and I sit down and learn the parts instead of recording bar-by-bar. If it doesn't sound good in the room, it's not going to work. So I think that one thing people tend to do is record too hot. Internet wisdom seems to say "record as hot as you can without it clipping" which doesn't quite sound right, because even though you won't hear any hard digital clipping, it is my understanding that the last 12 dB of headroom isn't entirely linear. I tend to keep the levels very conservative when tracking, and I think it's a very important thing to do. When using prosumer [both producer and consumer] gear with a top of the line preamp, you're likely going to add some character or use it for special effects, but not with the cheap stuff.

Netzach: Which also leaves a lot more room for dynamics, yeah. For mastering, you sent it to… Texas?

Kepler: Tennessee. The mastering engineer is Bob Olhsson [Audio Mastery, Nashville] with his claim to fame, amongst many other things, being his work on the Motown records. So he wouldn't seem like a first choice for metal, but he has enormous amounts of experience with classical music, where it's worth mastering with dynamics as intact as possible. I requested him, "look, if you have to limit something here and there, it's fine, but if you can get away with it, please don't brickwall anything". So I think the fact there's virtually no brickwalling on the recording is the greatest contributor to what you perceive to be an open-sounding recording.

Netzach: Yes. Everywhere I've seen you mentioned, there are comments on how great the sound is, and I was asked by a fellow Metal Storm writer to find out how you got such a good sound. Less is more, right?

Kepler: It's not what I did, but what I didn't do. There has to be a bit of brickwalling on the streaming master, I think it's DR 12. The vinyl master, which I hope to eventually get to release, is DR 14. That means there has to be a tiny bit of brickwalling on the digital release.

Netzach: You digitally released the vinyl master of Bifurcaria Bifurcata, right?

Kepler: Yeah, so it was a separate master and I have a separate one for vinyl now as well, but I did opt for now not to do a vinyl release. My main reason for this was by how much it would have delayed the album because with the pandemic, every single band now wants an album, and instead of the vinyl plants being backlogged by six weeks, they're now at six months. I decided I'm not going to delay release for six months and rather do it later on. The other reason being that I have a day job, and it's a bit stressful having to fulfil orders as well. I'm looking for a partner to help with that, so maybe I'd first hold off on the vinyl pressing until I can sort out those details.

Netzach: But you do have your own record label, Optogram Records?

Kepler: If you can really call it a record label. At this stage it is more like a tax fee call than anything else.

Netzach: It's a front.

Kepler: No… no, "front" doesn't sound very legal now, does it? (snickers)

Netzach: (laughs) No… no, it does not. It is a... legal front.

Kepler: It's a legal front. It's much easier to do promotion and communications with other engineers or publications even if you only have a small label. It feels less amateurish.

Netzach: It's like a platform.

Kepler: Yes, and the label is also good for keeping personal and musical finances apart.



Mercurial single print


Netzach: That's usually a good thing. So… the name Ophiuchi is quite interesting. I assume you have an interest in astronomy, but clearly also in mythology. For me, the name evokes a feeling of an uninvited visitor…

Kepler: (laughs in Mercurian)

Netzach: ...with Ophiuchus being the thirteenth constellation in the Zodiac which still has only twelve signs, and also happens to contain a large dark nebula [Barnard 68] and… stuff. So it's like a void in space, from where it enters the night sky to tear the Serpens in half.

Kepler: While I certainly did read up on it when I chose the name, and while I do like the symbology and mythology of Ophiuchus, the "serpent catcher", I do think the name is more of an in-joke because I share a first name with a famous astronomer. So it is a homage to a famous astronomer.

Netzach: The one who discovered it.

Kepler: Yeah, well, he observed a supernova in that constellation. Mythology forms a central part of the lyrics, and I'd say it's not in the way of, "there are these myths, and I'm going to tell these stories for these organisms", just going to tell them in the lyrics, you know? I don't really like that. The way I approach it is much more in the way Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell did. Myths as archetypes.

Netzach: Comparative mythology.

Kepler: Definitely, and I also feel that especially metal, black metal, is in the unique position to exploit the power of mythology. I think the main difference between what popular music does and what the best of metal does, which I hope to at least in part emulate, is that pop music sells you a dream. Mythology gives you a kind of negative image, a mould or an archetype.

Netzach: Like a template.

Kepler: A template. It's a depersonalised dream, and it really interests me because it's so universally accessible. For example, the themes around Shibboleth. Yes, it's loosely based on Homer's Odyssey, but if you look at the meaning of the word it really implies being a stranger. I've been living in the Netherlands for four years now [having relocated from Pretoria, South Africa] and it never ceases to amuse me that while I like living here, am as homey as I've ever been, and speak the language, I realise it's a matter of time before people tell me "there's something about your accent I can't place, which town did you say you're from?" because they have so many dialects over here. So sooner or later you'll say something which will always make people know that "okay, you're a stranger" which is the essence of a shibboleth. Despite the acceptance I experience from the Dutch, and despite the amount of effort I've gone to learning the language, I'd never be able to blend in completely. And I mean, it's not just my accent - people usually assume from my appearance that I'm Eastern European until I speak to them. Then they just become confused. In the past I've been assumed to be Czech, Swedish, Polish, Russian and any number of Balkan states. It's fine though, I've never perceived anyone to treat me unfairly because of that. So, on a personal level, it's that, and the fact that if you've emigrated, the concept of home becomes a little strange after a while. I mean, you're not really connected to your country of birth any more, but you're also not 100% native wherever you choose to settle. That interested me and I saw themes of that in the Odyssey.

Netzach: Because when he returns from his odyssey, he is a stranger in his own land.

Kepler: Exactly. When Ulysses eventually manages to get back to his kingdom, he doesn't even recognise it because he's been away for too long. Um, and let's not compare myself to a mythical figure or anything. (laughs) There are two very important themes in there: the concept of xenos, how to treat a stranger, and xenia, how you would like to be treated as a stranger. In ancient times, how a country treats a stranger essentially determined whether it was seen as civilised or not. I really liked that concept of all the various hosts that Ulysses has on his journey. A third interest I had wanted to write about is the concept of Gnostic exile. If you tie the concepts of xenos and xenia to Gnosticism, taking into account that hundreds and hundreds of years separate the Gnostic movement and when the Odyssey was written, the demiurge is much akin to the gods in the Odyssey and is in fact a bad host considering the concepts of Gnostic exile.

Netzach: The demiurge is like the usurper creator, right?

Kepler: Yes, in Gnosticism, the demiurge is the Old Testament God, and he has very human qualities.

Netzach: The bad cop God.

Kepler: You wouldn't say he is entirely evil, but he's… dubious at best.

Netzach: Well, the Universe isn't evil either, it's just indifferent.

Kepler: Exactly, so it's those three things. Being a stranger in a strange land, the fact that I read the Odyssey when I came to the Netherlands, and starting to read up more on Gnosticism around when I wrote the lyrics.

Netzach: I was going to ask about the lyrics on the title track, specifically whether "Shibboleth" is a love song, but I don't think it…

Kepler: No… no, definitely not. (laughs)

Netzach: But it is about… because a shibboleth is like an internal passphrase that a secret society might use to identify themselves as a member.

Kepler: It's definitely possible. In world war two, they had a very specific use for it where the password for some American camps was "Lollapalooza" and the Japanese simply couldn't say it, no matter how hard they tried. I don't really want to explain individual lines, I think that should be open for interpretation.

Netzach: Yes, I agree.

Kepler: I will tell you that if you take a look at the first few lines, they refer to a part of the Odyssey where Ulysses' men are turned into pigs.

Netzach: By Circe, on the island… Ayaya… Ayiea… [Several butchered pronunciations of "Aeaea" ensue.]

Kepler: I… Uh, yeah, something like that. I know the name, but I'm not going to fall into the trap of trying to pronounce it.

Netzach: No, I already did, so...

Kepler: Yes, thank you very much! (laughs) There's also a reference to the Lotus eaters. What I can say about Shibboleth outside the Odyssey and Gnosticism, there is also a reference to what Nietzsche called the "Dionysian ecstasy". Some names for Dionysus are the "God of wine" and so on, but he is also supposed to be the god of religious ecstasy.

Netzach: Like a spiritual experience, or…?

Kepler: Yes, and that's what I'll say about Shibboleth.

Netzach: Should leave it open to interpretation, that's what I try to do with my lyrics as well.

Kepler: So you're a vocalist?

Netzach: With some practice, maybe, but no, I play keyboards and write music in an alt/prog rock and a black metal band. I'm writing a lot of poems that sometimes get used as lyrics.

Kepler: In English or Swedish?

Netzach: Both, and sometimes in Finnish.

Kepler: If I remember correctly, it is not related at all to Swedish?

Netzach: It's Finno-Ugric, not Indo-European. Our Germanic languages are technically more related to Sanskrit.

Kepler: I have it easy, because my native Afrikaans is basically… it's a total "Dutch light", but also really dangerous because even if we use many of the same words, they no longer have the same meaning because the languages split off, like, 200 years ago.

Netzach: "Good day" became "fuck off"?

Kepler: Um, you're not wrong. In Afrikaans, you'd be saying, "oh, I'm just stopping with my car", and the Dutch will think you're masturbating.

(mutual giggles and laughs ensue)

Kepler: So, the debut, you've had some time to let it simmer now.

Netzach: Yes, and I revisited it once or twice too after playing Shibboleth for the fiftieth time or so. I swear, had it been released on Spotify a month ago when I received the promo, then I'd probably be behind a tenth of those 1000 plays, or so...

Kepler: (laughs) Thank you very much! Uh, so the debut, the title comes from…

Netzach: ...algae. A seaweed.

Kepler: Yes. However, the main mythological theme on Bifurcaria Bifurcata is the abduction of Persephone. At the time I was writing lyrics, I was reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. It's a book about the femicides of Ciudad Juárez [Chihuahua, Mexico]. In the book there is a fictional author called Archimboldo, and one of his fictional books was called Bifurcaria Bifurcata, so it definitely relates to the concept of Persephone.

Netzach: With this in mind, would you agree with what I wrote in the review about the myths being a framework for the internal search for knowledge; personal transformation?

Kepler: Yes, that is definitely one way of approaching it. To a large extent, that would be true.

Netzach: I mean, it's not only in the lyrics but in the music, there's always this quality of…

Kepler: ...change…

Netzach: ...yes, constant flux and never settling into something, always becoming something else.

Kepler: Yes, I prefer to always have music be on its way somewhere. I don't really like static repetition, I don't like this, "repeat this part two times, that part four times, have a chorus, do it eight times, and you've got a song". Instead, I try to grow it organically.

Netzach: You plant it in soil and reap it four years later. Well, in the back of your mind and let it compost for a while, maybe.

Kepler: Yes, but more akin to wanting the structures in the music to be more like vegetation than a man-made thing. I want something that can clearly be seen to be a part of the same plant while not feeling grafted on.

Netzach: Like bifurcating algae, then… Reviewing your debut, I mentioned it sounds alien but very alive. As if, you know, there are these Platonic forms of songs out there and someone is going about finding them.

Kepler: I really like that comparison, because I tend to get a bit tired of music that simply has a set structure, so…

Netzach: ...predictable.

Kepler: Predictable, but without being random. If there's no leitmotif that draws you back in, you don't really feel as if you're undertaking a journey, rather some sort of anthology of riffs.

Netzach: It doesn't become much more than the sum of it parts.

Kepler: No, definitely not, so I treat it as a living, breathing organism, and once I get the feeling that, "all right, it's done", then it's done. When I get going with the composition, I don't really change anything, although I do tend to trim the fat out of my material to have the best possible 40 minutes or so. I don't really think I can ask more, in terms of attention span, from people by making it longer.

Netzach: I'll remember you having said that when you release that triple album in four to five years.

Kepler: Yes, I saw a flow chart saying "are you Pink Floyd? No? Then don't release a double album".

Netzach: (laughs) I know that one… Yeah, double albums, I don't know... I suppose 40 minutes is the standard because it actually fit on a vinyl, but it turns out to be a quite digestible serving for most genres.

Kepler: I agree, and I think it's one of the problems with the digital medium that you're not limited by runtime any more, so instead of self-editing, people will record these bloated albums. I also think it's a case of professional producers playing a smaller role. Traditionally, there was an important role set aside for the producer to be able to tell the artist that, "listen, I think you should cut this down".

Netzach: Yes, because they've been around for a while...

Kepler: ...and can be much more objective, not being part of the band...

Netzach: ...hence no problem killing their babies! You did a lot of work on the album art. I read about it on your homepage, but I don't really… what was it, printmaking?

Kepler: Etching. So I've always harboured this fantasy to be able to print the album art myself from printing plates and have the album art complete, sans digital manipulation.

Netzach: Oh, so one of these old-school printing presses?

Kepler: Yes. So, around two years ago I started doing research on etching, took courses, read books on it, joined the printing studio in… another city. (snickers) Eventually I decided on an old process called aquatinting, whereby you etch a plate multiple times so every time you etch it, you etch the shadows deeper. It is absolutely time-consuming, and if you screw up, you start from scratch again.

Netzach: Oh, it's that kind of work.

Kepler: It's that kind of work, but when it succeeds, it's fantastic. Also, with a pandemic, I wasn't really able to visit the art studios, so I got myself an old-fashioned printing press with a handle with which you exert a few hundred kilograms of weight on the plate and transfer it to paper. For the artwork itself I made three plates, all aquatints made from zinc. One of the plates has all the lyrics, and for that I had to write them in a mirror image because your plate is a negative.



Shibboleth lyric sheet print


Netzach: Damn. They were very readable with that in mind. Looks like you used Tipp-Ex somewhere, though.

Kepler: Um, I checked my spelling in the mirror and realised I'd made a terrible mistake, so then I painted over the area again and (laughs) restarted with the etching needle, so...

Netzach: Well, no half-measures, right?

Kepler: Right! At the moment, I am busy making a print edition of the cover art, these prints will be more of a finished product. I'm going to make 25 copies of the album art. I prefer something like this to any digital scan of the artwork.

Netzach: Like having a physical medium, like a vinyl, instead of a bunch of badly tagged mp3 files. Shows there is love and labour put into it. You mentioned you might be selling them?

Kepler: First, I need to get the edition done with, because it's an inordinate amount of work even for one print.

Netzach: ...and now you are doing 25 of them. Have fun. Well, you're obviously having fun.

Kepler: I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it immensely. It takes me around 90 minutes to complete one of them. But it's also a good experience for the next time around.

Netzach: For the third Ophiuchi album!

Kepler: The third album. There were delays with Shibboleth as I first had to immigrate, but I've already started what I call pallet acquisition for album three; deciding what kind of sounds I want on it. Deciding which percussive and stringed instruments I want on it. I'm also writing riffs and so forth. My writing process has not really changed much between the first and the second album, I think, and I don't expect it to. I basically start with a guitar and play it like a bass because I'm first and foremost a bassist. Something reasonably basic, but deciding where the accents would lie in terms of the drums and from there on I'll try to add components that make it more complete instead of just sounding busier. None of my riffs or parts are very complex, it's in the way they interact with one another that creates the complexity.

Netzach: It is a very rhythmic thing.

Kepler: Yes, because technically, I'm very much a caveman on guitar. So, from there on, I try to add bass, but using it more like a lead guitar.

Netzach: The bass is responsible for most of the hooks, yeah. The melodies.

Kepler: In my music, the bass is the guitar and the guitar is the bass!

Netzach: The bass tone reminds me quite a lot of Tool.

Kepler: I love Tool's bass, you can certainly hear every single note he's playing, but I also like bass sounds with a little more grit and dirt. Especially when it comes to mixing, it's incredibly difficult to make anything sound even remotely heavy without a fair amount of distortion on the bass. Impossible to make the guitar sit properly in the mix without a distorted bass. Once I have guitar and bass playing off of one another, I start programming drums, but by that stage it'll still be pretty robotic, more like just intervals and accents. Once I get to the tracking stage, I might also stretch some parts on the demo recording to vary the tempo, because you'll notice that nothing lines up with the metronome; one part is 125 [bpm], the next is 128, followed by 115… I play around the metronome the same way when I play bass; it just keeps you from becoming bored.

Netzach: It must be a balancing act between this kind of intricate drum patterns, because the percussion is there all the time, doing something all the time, while avoiding letting it get just too busy.

Kepler: Yes, I think there might've been one or two moments on the album where the drums are rather busy and where I'd think that if you'd need live drums, you might need two drummers, but for the most part it's still very much playable by a single drummer, but that's completely right.

Netzach: What was your approach to the drum patterns? They really work to accentuate all the rhythms going on, in a strange way quite uncommon and unlike how drums are usually utilised.

Kepler: Yes, and it was intentional. It mostly has to do with the fact that I try to write parts that interlock with one another.

Netzach: Like the eighties King Crimson albums.

Kepler: Exactly. I'm a big fan of those, although I'm more a fan of the Red album. It is fantastic, and I'd say Discipline is second.

Netzach: Red would be my favourite as well. "Starless" is possibly my very favourite song ever.

Kepler: (laughs approvingly) I've noticed with King Crimson that there are many parts to the music; none of them are the same, but they form something completely different when put together. I really attempted to write something like that with my palette of sounds, where it's not just a guitar doubled up by the bass, playing along with the drums, accent on the third beat and... I'm not really very much excited by that kind of interplay, I prefer to interlock.

Netzach: Yeah, like, I hear these rhythms and imagine them in my head, visualising the patterns circling about each other and colliding at certain points along the way to create a whole new layer in the way they interact; something greater than the sum of its parts.

Kepler: That's what really fascinated me about King Crimson, which I really wanted to attempt with my own music.

Netzach: Well it sounds like you've done a pretty good job with that here. I hear the King Crimson in it.

Kepler: Thank you kindly.

Netzach: Oh, right. You mentioned you had a day job, what do you do?

Kepler: I'm a software developer. Java, more specifically.

Netzach: Okay, I haven't coded in Java… yeah, not since high school, anyway.

Kepler: Java is "compile once, break everywhere".

Netzach: Sounds like every time I code. (laughs)

Kepler: So what kind of work do you do?

Netzach: I study for an M.Sc. in applied physics. Theoretical physics, mathematical modelling and scientific computation, more specifically. I really need to get better at programming. I have a project now that I am writing in Python where I am supposed to simulate the event horizon of a black hole.

Kepler: I think you only need more practise. If you can understand theoretical physics, I think you'd be fine with programming.

Netzach: Yeah. What I like about theoretical physics kind of goes back to the themes we talked about on Shibboleth, because it's like a constant mindfuck, you know? My world-view and perspective is in constant transformation.

Kepler: Yes. The other day I was watching a documentary on the eventual fate of the Universe, and I've made peace with the fact of the heat death, but I've always held on to this false hope. Like, you could be able to convert heat back into energy, but no, entropy is at its maximum. Then I learned about proton decay and thought that, "no, we're fucked, man".

Netzach: Well, there are promising theories that could suggest heat death not being the end of everything. The expansion of the Universe is rapidly accelerating beyond the speed of light even now. So, it is not expanding "into" something, space-time itself is expanding. One metre gets longer and so does one second. The geodesic, the shortest path between two events in time and space, is growing longer, and so when the…

Kepler: ... the Planck length [the smallest measurable distance not garbled by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle].

Netzach: Good, that saves me (laughs) because when the Planck length has expanded to the point that the constant speed of light can no longer travel the shortest distance that makes sense to reality, information transfer and causality will come to a halt, since light can no longer travel anywhere. Every point is now an isolated reality, or a new Universe, so to speak. A new Big Bang. The mathematics say so, anyway.

Kepler: It makes me think of my favourite cosmological mindfuck fact. The Schwarzschild radius of an object [is the lower limit on its size for not turning into a black hole]. The mass of the Universe says that its Schwarzschild radius is more or less the size of the observable Universe.

Netzach: Yes! I wrote an essay about holography for my cosmology course, about a mathematical equivalence between a hyperbolic geometry of space-time, meaning gravity, and quantum fields on the exterior boundary of the Universe. Like our 3D universe encoded as a hologram, like a 3D film is on a 2D screen.

Kepler: Like the way you could walk along infinitely on the surface of a sphere with finite diameter and circumference.

Netzach: That's exactly how black holes work. So, if you throw something into it, you'd see it fall more and more slowly towards it and then get encoded on the event horizon. But if something throws you in a black hole, you'd barely notice it at first. As your encoding on the exterior boundary is entropised, you're approaching the singularity. Like a hologram.

Kepler: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Netzach: Yeah. A lot of things are very possible, that's the beauty and the problem of it. So… what other sorts of music are you generally into? "Generally", that sounded better in my head. (laughs) For me, it changes a lot.

Kepler: Yes, it changes, but apart from my influences I like a lot of folk music and am always exploring it. I listen to an enormous amount of extreme metal as well. I love Portal, Teitanblood, the really dissonant bands…

Netzach: Deathspell Omega? Maybe they are the ones with a six-armed drummer.

Kepler: I love them. I went through a major Deathspell Omega phase a while ago where I listened to nothing else. (laughs) Yob, Neptunian Maximalism, Swans... Plebeian Grandstand is probably the most violent music I've ever heard, they sound incredibly pissed off, and I absolutely love Imperial Triumphant, especially Vile Luxury.

Netzach: Alphaville has such an amazing cover art. It's like a mix of Roman antiquity and "Metropolis".

Kepler: Yes, and it also reminds me of Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut".

Netzach: I am bad at watching movies. My ADD brain gets distracted usually. David Lynch is my favourite director, though, I love his stuff.

Kepler: I like Lynch! My favourite work of his is "Eraserhead".

Netzach: Yeah, that is a great one. I'd say "Lost Highway" probably.

Kepler: Oh, I first decided that I should see "Lost Highway" when I heard the soundtrack because it was around the time I went to high school and I thought, "I have to see this, the soundtrack is awesome".

Netzach: Uh, so, I asked my friends on Metal Storm if they'd any questions to forward, so now I'll be wondering: does pineapple belong on pizza?

Kepler: You know… it's very strange, because…

Netzach: (laughs) That's not quite the reaction I was expecting!

Kepler: ... I told one of my friends that, "hey, Metal Storm is doing an interview with me, and I think I'll prepare some standard answers to frequently asked questions like: 'do peas belong on pizza?'" But… no, pineapple does not belong on it, I am sorry.

Netzach: Wait. There's pineapple on pizzas all over the place here in Sweden.

Kepler: Heathens!

Netzach: Not any more, sadly, we were Christianised. I think in heathen times, pineapple hardly existed here.

Kepler: Isn't it a tropical…?

Netzach: Yeah, and we are not tropical. We are very, um, non-tropical.

Kepler: No, uh, to the best of my knowledge, Sweden is not tropical. But, it struck me as funny he had a question about pizza toppings.

Netzach: There was also an inquiry whether, if you'd been born as a fish, would you rather be a (stifles a laugh) male angler fish or an ocean summer fish? I'm sure your answer will mean something to somebody, I don't even know what these fish look like.

Kepler: Ugly.

Netzach: Oh yeah, angler fish are… (makes what looks like a jerk-off motion on something supposed to sit on the forehead)

Kepler: I am a vain man, I'll go for beauty and be the angler fish.

Netzach: Right. I didn't expect us to talk for two hours, this has been fun. Maybe we'll have another chat some day.

Kepler: Yes, it has, and maybe we will! I think it must be pretty terrible conducting an interview where you play "20 questions"

Netzach: Interrogation…

Kepler: … with a sharp light and a dripping faucet ....

Netzach: … and the light is flickering like in the "Twin Peaks" morgue…

Kepler: … with some random frames …

Netzach: … in anachronistic order, and whatnot. Anything you would like to bring up that I haven't interrogated you about?

Kepler: Well, no, not really. Off the record… [REDACTED]





Posted on 15.05.2021 by Slam an axe into your boat, then row for your life.


Comments

Comments: 4   Visited by: 65 users
15.05.2021 - 15:39
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Sounds like a swell guy. But he should try some Hawaii Pizza.
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15.05.2021 - 15:43
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by RaduP on 15.05.2021 at 15:39

Sounds like a swell guy. But he should try some Hawaii Pizza.

Yes, quite agreeable! Let's not hold that pineapple thing against him. But yes, he really should try some Hawaii pizza.
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15.05.2021 - 22:51
musclassia

Still can't believe you asked the fish question - I was just trying to give you the stupidest question I could think of in 30 seconds, but in case it's informative, male angler fish are basically tiny sperm sacs that latch onto the much larger female angler fish that people are more familiar with, whilst somebody wrote a passionate rant about how the ocean sunfish is the worst fish in the world

on a more serious note, this is an excellent interview Joel, definitely shows the benefits of a face-to-face conversation where you can bounce off each other instead of an email exchange of questions and answers, I really enjoyed reading it
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20.05.2021 - 02:05
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by musclassia on 15.05.2021 at 22:51

Still can't believe you asked the fish question - I was just trying to give you the stupidest question I could think of in 30 seconds, but in case it's informative, male angler fish are basically tiny sperm sacs that latch onto the much larger female angler fish that people are more familiar with, whilst somebody wrote a passionate rant about how the ocean sunfish is the worst fish in the world

on a more serious note, this is an excellent interview Joel, definitely shows the benefits of a face-to-face conversation where you can bounce off each other instead of an email exchange of questions and answers, I really enjoyed reading it

Haha! Why the surprise? I saw no reason not to ask it, and it brought some nice levity towards the end. What the hell? I had no idea about the male angler fish. Puts Kepler's choice in a new light for me, to say the least...

Cheers for reading! Ophiuchi asked me to send his thanks to the staff too. Had a blast doing it, was nervous how the final edit would end up, so I am happy to hear you liked it. Yes, talking by video did a lot, it quickly felt like a natural conversation rather than an interview, so I am glad he agreed to it.
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