It’s not everyday you get to interview someone whose music and overall message has inspired you for twenty plus years. Chances are you’re going to miss out on some things you may have wanted to ask or fumble over some of your words. In the case of Nathan Gray, (Boysetsfire, I am Heresy and a just released solo effort.) I knew this was inevitable. With so much ground to cover and a couple of subjects I wasn’t sure were up for discussion. I tired to keep my questions to a reasonable number while keeping the door open to further discussion and dialogue.
In creating Document Fanzine, both Jason and myself set out to communicate with the people that have affected us through their music and art. To celebrate and bring light to the music and people that have always inspired us. Get to know them on more than one level and in essence, give them a voice as well as a soundboard to speak. Thanks to Nathan for his patience and openness. J.D.
James: Can you tell me how the idea to do a solo album came about? I mean with all the things you’re involved in.. two bands, your son.. etc. Where did you find the time and what was it that inspired these songs?
Nathan: Wanting to take on a solo musical endeavor is nothing new for me. The Casting Out was actually supposed to be a solo project, but I lost my nerve, and brought in other people. Now, at this stage of my life, just felt like the right time to dive in and do it. It has been absolutely amazing so far!
If you want something bad enough, you make the time for it. It really is as simple as that. I’m not afraid of hard work. My family… my music, both are extremely important to me, and luckily I have support from each of those loves, to continue to grow and nurture the other.
James: I have to admit. I had no idea what to expect and this record was nothing I expected. While it wasn’t what I’d call “something that had to grew on me”. I would definitely say this is a record I needed to absorb before reaching out to you. Can you share how this journey begin and what the process was like?
Nathan; I think it’s safe to say that MOST people didn’t know what to expect with this project, and I sort of like it that way. People hear that the singer from their favorite band is going solo, and they (somewhat rightly) expect it to be another man-and-acoustic-guitar sort of thing, because that’s generally what happens. But, that really wasn’t me, and it wasn’t the sort of creative and emotional outlet I wanted, or needed.
Within the I AM HERESY albums, we always included these dark, emotive segways which tied the songs together. Those pieces somewhat inspired what the solo endeavor is. I knew that I wanted that sound and feeling in my project. I began writing, and reached out to my Dan, who was always that friend of ours who was doing his own thing, engulfed in electronic, and industrial music. I knew he would be the perfect person to help me bring my vision to life. From there, the songs started to take shape, and the endeavor started to solidify itself in style and content.
James: There’s a soft spoken strength to the record that’s very moving. In a sense, it felt as it was a perfect vehicle to deliver these songs. What was it that guided this approach?
Nathan: My personal ideology is very much at the forefront of what I produce as Nathan Gray. As a Satanist, it is my responsibility to create myself in my own best image. That means overcoming hindrances, strengthening myself, creating, and exercising my carnality.
James: Can you tell me about the narration throughout the record?
Nathan: I believe you are asking about the spoken samples within the EP, and if so, these are clips taken from various movies, which suited the mood of each song. There is the clip at the beginning of “Wolves” that everyone loves, which comes from the film “The Dunwich Horror.”
James: The lyrics themselves have a certain historic feel to them. There seems to be a common theme throughout. What are these songs rooted in?
Nathan: These songs are inspired by my personal, continued quest to create my own vital existence. They are ritual celebrations of, invocations of, or releases from all the carnal emotions, that can make or break a human.
James: As a photographer and someone who is visually drawn to photographs that tell a story or evoke emotion. I felt myself drawn to the cover image. For me personally, it brought a lot of things to mind including mental health, loneliness and inner strength. Can you tell me about the photo, who took it and what it represents in relation to the EP?
Nathan: The cover art for the EP was done by an incredibly talented friend of mine named Tom Bejgrowicz of Man Alive Creative. I have worked with Tom many times over the years, as he has created art for Boysetsfire, I Am Heresy, and now, my solo endeavor.
Using images he shot at an abandoned hospital, and then combining them with a stark white version of my personal sigil, he came up with something bold and mysterious that I absolutely love. As far as what it represents, I feel that it, as with most art, is best interpreted by the individual. The magic is contained in what it means, and does, for YOU.
James: What was it that initially sparked your interest to Satanism? Did you grow up in a particularly religious household?
Nathan: I grew up within the Christian church, both parents being actively involved within it my entire life. My first introduction to Satanism came at quite a young age, and it was through films we were shown in church. They were meant to warn us of the dangers of sin, and assured us that Satan was the enemy. Through those films, I was introduced to Anton LaVey, the man who founded The Church of Satan, and I was fascinated with him immediately.
James: What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions? For you personally, what are the most important truths?
Nathan: The absolute biggest misconception about Satanism, is that we worship Satan. Worshipping a deity other than ourselves would be ridiculous to us, and very much a Christian way to act. Aside from that, the next, and most horrific misconception, is that we kill or maim humans, and/or animals. We absolutely do not. Just as we don’t drink blood, encourage drug use, or rally to erect ridiculous religious statues on government property.
“Satanism demands study-not worship.” This means that we know the difference (or similarity!) between fantasy and reality, that we are in a constant search for our OWN truths, and that we are responsible for, and master of, our own destinies.
(While I understand the next two questions may be very or too too personal to discuss. I have had many friends and family suffer from addiction. Therefore I am genuinely interested and concerned.) I thoroughly respect your decision if it’s something you’d like to keep personal.
James: Most people our age don’t have the chance to play side by side in a band with their son. Yet you have been doing just that. What has it been like having your own flesh and blood right by your side performing with you?
Nathan: It is, of course, an incredible feeling. It certainly gave us a chance to connect in a way most parents don’t get to do. To share all that time creating together, and then touring together, was a once in a lifetime sort of opportunity, and I am really happy we were able to share that. I hope to someday possibly share that experience with youngest son, as well.
James: You recently fought an epic battle in regards to your son. How is he doing and how is his recovery coming along?
Nathan: Simon continues to fight, and is committed to getting his life back. We are extremely proud of his progress, and hope that he continues to move forward.
James: Was the solo album and the new BSF intended to be released around the same time?
Nathan: It wasn’t intentional, but they certainly happened that way. The solo EP re-release came just before the Boysetsfire album release, and I can assure you that it was a complete whirlwind. It still is! There were back to back releases AND tours, so to say it’s been a busy year, would be an understatement. But, I thrive off that sort of chaos, so it’s been an amazing ride.
James: Is there any (for lack of a better word) fear that, perhaps due to familiarity, your solo effort might be overshadowed by…
Nathan: Not at all. My friends and fans have faithfully followed me through each new adventure. Aside from that, both bands are completely different, and to compare them, or worry about overshadowing one with another would be somewhat silly. There are new fans to each band that have come from the other.
James: You’re set to tour Europe in support of the new album. Do you have any solo gigs planned where you’ll be able to perform these songs? (Understand I wrote this question a few weeks before it was sent to you.)
Nathan; I’m actually on tour as we speak! And I do not have any solo shows planned on the Boysetsfire tour, but hope to return with Dan soon, for another run of Nathan Gray shows.
James: I Think it goes without saying that Boysetsfire were a band that not only renewed and strengthened my love of Hardcore, BSF almost single handedly got me through some very rough patches. I say this because I recently (not sure how recently, but it stuck in my gut.) read somewhere
that the band felt a sense of dissatisfaction in regards to their success. If true, why? And in the end. How do you measure success as a band and as an artist?
I’m not entirely sure why anyone would think that we are, or ever have been, dissatisfied with our success. Boysetsfire is still making albums, and still playing sold out shows after over 20 years. That is an INCREDIBLE success, and one we do not take for granted. Simply put, success is defined individually, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am damn pleased with what I’ve accomplished in my life. I’m not even close to being done yet…
To purchase NTHN GRY click Here . To learn more about Nathan Gray you can go Here . For more information about BoySetsFire, the new album and their tour. You can log on to the band’s website http://www.boysetsfire.net/