Last month, a press release was circulated for a new album from the Thurston Moore-John Moloney collaboration Caught On Tape, and in that press release were a few lines of semi-comprehensible trolling from Moore on the musical genre called “black metal.” As you might remember, Moore’s admittedly decontextualized exact quote was: “Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order.” Today, Moore clarified that quote in an interview with Rolling Stone (Trolling Stone?) and I’m not sure he’s made the situation any better, or that he wants to. Said Moore:
That was really taken out of context. It was really funny how people got tweaked by that. I was answering a question. How do you answer a question about black metal? Black metal, it doesn’t even consider itself music. In fact, it doesn’t want to be confused with any kind of music because it’s something else entirely. It’s a voided concept from its start [laughs]. It’s all about complete disintegration of existence. It’s a music that uses the elements of rock instrumentation but it’s so anti-everything that, for me, it doesn’t matter what you say about it because it doesn’t exist. I figured I would just write something ridiculous about it. And boy, did black-metal devotees get really upset by it. You’re not supposed to be alive, so why are you getting upset?
I actually understand what he’s getting at and I think black metal ultra-purists would sort of agree with what he’s saying. Although I don’t personally know any such ultra-purists, because I don’t think they exist anymore, and haven’t existed for a couple decades. I actually wrote about this stuff in an essay about the state of black metal earlier this year. Here’s what I said that relates directly to what Thurston is saying:
Black metal was born as a reaction — both to and against death metal, which was experiencing a rare period of commercial success in the early ’90s — and thus, it had a rigid definition before it even had a body. If modern black metal has a prime mover, a John The Baptist, if you will, it is Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, who founded the band Mayhem and the record label Deathlike Silence Productions, and opened the Oslo record store Helvete, before being killed in 1993 by Vikernes. Euronymous’s Helvete was to Norwegian black metal what MacDougal Street was to the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene, and his views were considered gospel. Death metal was “trendy” and “fun,” said Euronymous; well, black metal rejected trends and fun. Earache was the most prominent death metal label at the time, and their catalog numbers were preceded by the word MOSH (e.g., Lawnmower Deth’s 1990 Earache release Ooh Crikey! It’s Lawnmower Deth! is cataloged MOSH025); Deathlike Silence catalog numbers were preceded by the word ANTI-MOSH.
So I honestly get what he’s saying but man does he suck at saying it. Also, by this point in TWENTY FOURTEEN, black metal does “consider itself” music and asserting otherwise makes you sound like an out-of-touch old man who still ties onions to his belt. Whatever, all publicity is good publicity for Thurston, I guess.