The Cislunar Fog
CoC interviews SGL and LVG of Velvet Cacoon
by: T. DePalma
The American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote that "Every real thought on every real subject knocks the wind out of somebody or other." Laying out their cards in an environment known for confronting taboos, no band in the last few years has elicited the reaction that epitomizes this statement more than Velvet Cacoon. Yet the controversy began before they had uttered a word publicly or before their music really emerged. Their appearance had caused not so much a furor over music (unfortunate, perhaps) but of ideas, and the relevance of those ideas not only to black metal, but in the greater scope of reality.

In late January of this year I had the chance to contact SGL and LVG, the rather mysterious male / female duo from Portland, Oregon who had recently released their debut record _Genevieve_ at the peak of intrigue. After a long period of silence and confusion surrounding the status of the band, I was again contacted this month to pick up where we never really got started...

CoC: Greetings. Your first official album, _Genevieve_, allows the listener to identify a motive to Velvet Cacoon, but not all of its implications. The album is subconscious. Artists, particularly in film and in music, may sometimes prefer to leave their work open to interpretation by constructing nonlinear narratives or abstaining from narrative entirely. Do you find that a little bit of mystery (fewer images, little text) may actually facilitate less interpretation to be placed externally onto a musical work, causing a more palpable and concentrated effect produced by the music alone?

SGL: Yes, a little mystery goes a long way. The unknown forces the mind to reel, examine the possibilities and meanings in everything they are witness to, and this is ideal for an artist as there is nothing more one could attempt to do with art than inspire thought. The last thing we are looking to do is spoon-feed people every syllable so that we can assert our vision is the only one which should ever accompany our music. Art is a deeply personal medium in which to convey the deepest of expression and thought, and it would be ignorant to dictate how others perceive what they are experiencing. If you have an understanding of music, then you can communicate emotions by suggesting them through tones and rhythms, rather than having to write out a lyric to show everyone what you are trying to tell them. After all, classical music has no words and it speaks volumes. I think the mystery exists not in LVG and myself as people, but in the art we create. There is a certain allure our band has on people because we appeal to a side of them and most aren't even sure why. They are fascinated with our brand of art, but if you asked them why, they would be dumbfounded. What we appeal to is the desire which dark minds possess for pure soulful art; essentially, as seen from listeners, we serve as whores for them -- muses, virgins, sluts and angels, catering to a desire they are not even fully aware of -- and I believe many hate us for invading that deeply personal area of their thoughts.

CoC: Do you think that a more explicit approach would cause you to be understood any better within the black metal scene... community?

SGL: Not for a moment. If someone understands what we have done with an album like _Genevieve_, then there need not be any explanation. What use would there be for one? Furthermore, if someone doesn't understand what we are doing, there exist no words which could possibly enlighten them. What we create is unadulterated and shameless expression, void of any restrictions or reservations, open to the wildest of interpretations. If someone fails to understand that, then that is who they are as individuals, it is simply who and what they are. I find most people who enjoy our music have a significantly heightened sense of artistic awareness and an eagerness to find comfort in the unknown or total blackness. There is solace in that. If you can lay in your bed in a pitch black room and think for hours on end, allowing the darkest corners of your mind to dance about in total silence, then you will most likely find great value in an album like _Genevieve_.

CoC: _Genevieve_ is technically your sixth full length, but the first album properly released on a label and distributed for the public; interestingly, it is also part of a trilogy. What are the specifics involved in this theme, and is any more material designed for this set likely to be released in the future?

SGL: _Genevieve_ is DSE2 [December Star Embassy]. DSE1 and DSE3 will most likely see the day of light, but it's not a priority right now. The theme of the December Star Embassy trilogy is based on nature and drug use, finding catharsis in blackness, depth to dreams and the night. _Genevieve_ will make absolutely no true sense with a centered equilibrium. The album was specifically geared towards the unique aural perceptions experienced while under the deep anaesthetic of dissociates.

LVG: It was heavily based on linking nature and landscapes with feelings of solitude. Personally, I think _Pieces of the Cold Sea for the Sleeping Northwest_ and _North of December_ were much more successful at this as opposed to _Genevieve_, which was less rooted in trying to paint visions with music, since we focused so much on painting darkness and depth on that album. _Genevieve_ is like a dissociative experience gone awry, plus it is the only metal album of the trilogy; so in some ways it sticks out like a sore thumb, but it also gives the album a unique character -- not just in the trilogy, but in our entire discography as a whole.

CoC: This album's release was preceded by a few years of Internet gab about Velvet Cacoon, and you eventually came to be promoted on the web by your local and loyal fans, who amplified intrigue from your easily obtainable _Dextronaut_ release amid an incredulous corner of the underground. Was the decision to release _Genevieve_ spontaneous in the face of all this, or was it planned since its inception? When did you realize this was something special?

SGL: We knew _Genevieve_ would be a special album once we began the writing process. We knew it would become an album that blended the embodiment of minimalism with a heavy sense of ambience, and that is something nobody has really tried to do before with a genre that thrives so much on a fast pace such as black metal. Around the time of writing this album we were hearing back from many people from all over the world who showed a sincere appreciation for what we were doing, and we felt it would be a gesture of decency to release something just for them; and that is essentially why we released the album. Velvet Cacoon is a legitimate source of art in a dead world, and that is all I need to know. Whether it leaves bold impressions on people or repulses them is up to the listeners to decide. We certainly understand that Velvet Cacoon is not for everyone.

CoC: You were originally a three piece, correct?

SGL: SKV [now deceased] was our drummer in the very beginning, but he wasn't a very active part of the band. He wrote only a few songs and was more of a drummer than a musician.

CoC: Have either of you been involved in any other projects besides Velvet Cacoon?

LVG: When I was a child I took piano and violin lessons, and I would record really bizarre tapes of myself playing, but that was, more or less, my initial foray into learning how to record sounds in original ways, understanding tones and how to tweak sound patterns to create ambience from traditional instruments. These days I occasionally play small solo sets around the city in the vein of the material on _How the Last Day Came..._.

CoC: Being very idiosyncratic in nature, _Genevieve_'s tracks are formed by unconventional recording devices and techniques that have given it an authentic atmosphere by incorporating actual aquatic elements into the recipe, a murky broth. Was similar experimentation and gadgetry like this done to mirror geography on past works?

LVG: I have no idea what this means? [I was referring to the dieselharp and if similar instrumental adjustments had been done on earlier material. -- Todd] We experiment with things because it is in our nature to do so. We are curious little beings with insatiable appetites for the unknown. If you are referring to the EVP [Electronic Voice Phenomena] on _Velorum_, that was probably one of the most interesting things we have done. We had a couple of people who are very well known for tracking down ghosts in the northwest meet up with us and we went to several old graveyards over the course of a few nights and would set up all of this very intricate audio equipment and record the strangest sounds I have ever heard. We were in total silence, laying on our stomachs in the grassy fields of these graveyards just staring as the tapes rolled, sharing Sampoerna X-tras and drinking wine, when all the sudden something would start whispering very quietly for a few seconds, then fade out. It was a very strange experience.

CoC: The day _Genevieve_ was released you began your public affirmation of radical environmentalism, describing the band as "eco-fascist black metal". Can you give a summation of the ideas behind this ideology and its relation to your ideas about black metal?

SGL: It was probably a mistake on our part to use that description for a release like _Genevieve_. It was fitting when the band first formed, but these days our personal ideologies regarding deep ecology have absolutely no connection to the music of Velvet Cacoon. We realized rather early on that connecting ecology to our music was counter-productive. If anything, we have moved Velvet Cacoon away from the eco-fascist ideologies. It is something we firmly believe in as individuals, but we wanted to keep Velvet Cacoon from becoming a tool of propaganda. With increased drug use and more travels into different layers of reality, we gradually steered the band towards a more decadent and timeless form of audial art.

CoC: A common misconception about environmentalism as a philosophy is how it contextualizes technology and its benefits. Some people do go farther than others, though obviously you are both quite adept and open to it for the purposes of art. Where do you draw the line in terms of technology's practicality and qualitative use?

SGL: There is a misconception that environmental radicals oppose any and all forms of technological progress, and this is simply not true; a lazy assumption steeped in ignorance and void of any factual basis. If technology is kept practical and reasonable, then there is no opposition. Opposition occurs only when people seek to exploit these things to satisfy their own greed. Americans are taught at an early age that overindulgence is somehow a positive characteristic which should be strived for regardless of the goal, which usually results in blind carelessness that affects not only those around them but future generations as well. If we look at technological progress in the last fifty years, we can obviously see that we are going down the wrong path. How can so few recognize this as a problem?

LVG: If the situation has deteriorated at such a rapid pace, imagine what future generations will be forced to suffer through. They'll be needing to walk around holding umbrellas in broad daylight, lest they develop skin cancer before they even reach adolescence. What is all this for? So we can sustain a culture of laziness by assuring nobody has to walk more than five steps since, apparently, society has deemed that any form of exercise is unacceptable and that we must think up new toys and methods to ensure we suffer an epidemic of laziness characterized by morbid obesity and gluttony in every sense of the word? If you look at technology these days, you can see all of its progression aims to gratify laziness, to make us work less so we can spend more time decomposing in the nearest fast food drive-thru.

CoC: You are professed carnivores; the consumption of other species being an accepted practice in your cosmology. You have also stated your opposition towards the unethical treatment of animals. In the United States, the factory has eclipsed the farm and animals are not only raised in more squalid conditions but may undergo various injections -- FDA approved or otherwise -- to facilitate growth. Some animals are also bred in an unnaturally omnivorous state, being fed the discarded bits of other animals mixed in with grain. What sort of obstacle has this posed for you personally?

SGL: Not much. I don't eat any red meat since it makes my body physically lethargic. I only eat chicken from a friend's farm. He has a nice estate out in the woods with several chickens and that is the only time I really eat meat, which is no more than once or twice a month. I catch my own fish as well. Oregon is great because we have some of the best salmon in the world. This all sounds so rustic.

CoC: You have spoken briefly in the past about the asexuality of Velvet Cacoon. Philosophically this is close to the more grand and misanthropic ideals of early Nineties black metal, but whereas the more Satanic bands emphasized control over others, abolishing concepts of love and social relationships, VC apparently focus on extreme self-control. What do you believe you gain from this method?

LVG: Sex is the ultimate tragedy of man, because it destroys him. Everything he does is done from lust, from the car he drives, the clothes he wears, the cologne he sprays, the hairstyle he fashions. Virtually everything done is for that epic orgasm he so lustfully chases. The same, if not more so, is to be said for women. When you remove sex from the equation of life, you are left with endless possibilities, a sense of liberated freedom which few could ever comprehend. The burden of sexual acceptance is lifted and your humanity engages in a dawning of sorts. Both sex and love fill a genetic craving which all humans are born with -- it is what drags us from drifting as an outsider to feeling as though we are an essential and fully functional component of society, a part of the world. It is what is supposed to give ourselves legitimacy, confidence, assurance, confirmation, a feeling that we are needed -- and everyone wants to feel they are needed as well as important, not just to one or two people, but to as many people as they can influence. What we do with asexuality is expose the loophole, to reveal a means to fill this gap with an appreciation of beauty, decay, alternate realities and time travel. This is done by living a life which in no way resembles that of the typical human, because, in many ways, we are not typical humans. We transcend the expected and venture into worlds where we are gods and kings, and what separates us from what you mentioned about early Nineties black metal, or even modern black metal, is that this is not a fantasy. This is how we live our lives. We live, breathe and sleep this lifestyle of hypersanity, and it takes many years of mind expansion to comprehend the insignificance of love and lust in regards to other humans. We unveil the illusion that humans somehow require sex and love to feel their existence is justified. It is evident that society knows nothing of true depth and beauty, so why would you place trust in the hands of society to make the judgment call on your value? All this does is legitimize your place amongst a society which has failed itself -- it does nothing to validate yourself as a person, and that is what is important. To realize this lust for acceptance is a genetic cancer which you absolutely must carve from your mind. If you fail to do this, you will forever be a slave to society and your own lust, which in turn means you will never experience true life. You will be experiencing nothing more than life in a hologram, illusions to confuse you to the point that your life is lived trying to find a better sense of the self. This epiphany comes not when you succumb your strength to another person, but rather discard such a notion and understand that the true path of the self is a path of individual understanding, relying upon only yourself to unlock and experience the mysteries of life.

CoC: Do you use anything to alter your libido (herbs, selective diet)?

LVG: My thoughts and perceptions transform my libido into a sense of godliness more than anything. When you rise above your own genetics, you are playing in gods land.

CoC: I'm curious about the two portraits that make up the interior of _Genevieve_. They're certainly more detailed than previously available photographs, particularly on the point of gender. Although their faces are obscured, the two figures are captured in stark gestures of both typic femininity and masculinity. Do you recognize any symbolism in the fact that VC is composed of one man and one woman beyond the copulative and more sentimental aspects you shun?

SGL: It represents a sort of inverse yin-yang which contrasts the personalities of LVG and myself. Masculinity and femininity. Who I am, physically and mentally, is fairly aligned with the human conception of masculinity. I want what I want and do my best to make it mine. LVG, on the other hand, represents what I would imagine the universe strived to achieve when it created the idyllism of femininity. She is very quiet, shy, and quite reclusive. She lives surrounded by bright pink and orange paintings depicting various eras in the last few centuries. In my opinion, it's perfect that way.

CoC: Your live shows are a sight to behold, from what I gather; a fiery and soiled event where your roots in black metal might be most easily discerned. How does the live experience differ from the studio? Is it performance art to you?

SGL: No, it is not performance art, because when we play in a live setting we are not performing in the sense of putting on a show. We are literally repeating moods and messages from other worlds by way of heavy drug use and time travel. This is much different than what happens in the studio, because it is in solitude that we are allowed to receive these messages and it is in a live setting where we can communicate them. What you hear on a Velvet Cacoon album does not involve us communicating or recording anything from ourselves, merely our human bodies being used as instruments of the stars and aliens to communicate sounds through us. We are tools for other life forms and distant times, both future and past, which have the capacity to translate these things through us. Live, we translate them through amplifiers and mixers, but we are not receiving messages directly; we are simply wading through memories where our minds are allowed to accept what we have learned and enabled to repeat them for others to hear.

CoC: Sex or what is sexual can be defined in a broader sense compared to procreation, which fulfills a biological urge that is, contrary to society's order of priests and news anchors, not a necessity. Psychologically, sex provides a relief obtained through fervor; it's an end in itself. Do you think that your physical stage show, your public catharsis, acts as a kind of sexual performance, a reallocated drive that exhibits itself for others in the normal method of intercourse?

SGL: There is no lust and therefore no sexual drive in which emotions and desires can be bottled up. Everything is free flowing through me and what occurs in a live setting is a projection of our art and vision. Sex is an end to loss and confusion, feelings of emptiness, and it is an end to blissful ignorance. People seem to think genetics can't be wrong, and that if there is a desire for lust it must be catered to rather than disintegrated. If genetics were spot on, everyone would be beautiful, our fingernails would not grow, we would not fall victim to cancer and disease, we would not die of heart failure, we would not murder, we would not entertain thoughts of suicide, we would never need to bathe, never need to feed. In a perfect world, our bodies would be fully self-sustaining or we wouldn't have bodies at all -- we would simply be fields of energy.

CoC: There was a planned live show on this past October 31, but it never materialized. What were the circumstances behind this? Are you currently interested in bringing Velvet Cacoon onto the stage again?

SGL: Two live shows were being discussed, but the deal fell through because nobody could reach an agreement on the venues. We are extremely picky when it comes to live venues, since everything has to be perfect in order for it to come off well. There will certainly be more Velvet Cacoon shows later down the road, but for now we are primarily focused on our new album.

CoC: Velvet Cacoon has become known for an almost Burroughsian affection for the drug Dextromethorphan. How integral is the chemical experience to the process of composing music for you? Do you have a design for the music beforehand or does the concept unfold continuously?

LVG: Dextromethorphan is the chemical of pure godliness and brilliance. I've never before experienced something as profound as the fourth plateau. It is the inspiration for everything Velvet Cacoon has done, and never before have we been so successful at communicating that feeling into music as we were with _Genevieve_. There are so many aliens and nether-worldly entities to communicate with up there, and the things they tell me consistently blow my mind, and therefore universe, wide open. The trick is to connect the world experienced under sobriety with the world of the fourth plateau. What one must remember is that all of this is reality. Whether you are sober or drugged out of your mind, this all exists in the realm of reality, so the perceptions and conceptions experienced in those altered states are just as valid as anything experienced in sobriety -- a notion commonly misunderstood by people with views which oppose drug use. Imagine what our society would be like if our state of sobriety was that of the fourth plateau. Would we value life any more if we had to take a drug simply to experience what we currently experience in sobriety? What chemicals exist in the brains of aliens? If their reality is that of something like smoked N,N-DMT, does this discredit their sense of reality? Would they discredit our sense of reality? Every mind state has a valuable purpose, and the first mistake we can make is to assume that our natural state of mind is the only worthy state of mind and any altered states of mind are merely illusions which hold no merit. When you understand that everything we can experience is equal in worth, it allows us to transport ourselves into various mindscapes without compromise, and this is essential for building bridges between here and the netherworlds as well as other eras of time -- it allows us to retain what we learn and apply it to our sense of reality, as well as retain and apply our sense of reality to dream worlds. Eventually it all blurs together to form a solid perception of reality, and it is when the threshold of resistance is obliterated that true godliness is attained, and we understand we are not simple-minded humans, but rather creatures blessed with a planet containing endless amounts of chemicals and plants that allow us to teleport ourselves and link up with alien entities and foreign worlds which in no way resemble the one we were born in. When we allow these worlds to come together as one, it creates the transcendental reality; and that is where we exist, and that is where our music comes from.

CoC: You are responding now after a long sabbatical, during which Velvet Cacoon was announced as finished by LVG. Also during this time, a demo CD-R was released by LVG entitled _How the Last Day Came and Stayed Then Faded Into Simulated Rain_. It now seems that an end was never your intention. Can you explain what caused this confusion, and did you have any knowledge of the demo that was released at the time?

SGL: I had an enlightening of sorts, but in human terms it was called psychosis. The state placed me in an asylum for three months, and that entire time I was in pure solitude, which allowed me plenty of time to reorganize my thoughts and develop a clearer understanding of my existence. The only negative was that I was not allowed anything from outside, not even music. All I could really do was write, and that's exactly what I did -- about two hundred pages of my thoughts scribbled out. During this time I had unexpectedly developed several of my own languages, which, of course, nobody else could understand. LVG was allowed to visit me about twice a week, and during one of these visits I told her that we would temporarily put Velvet Cacoon on ice, which she mistook for ending the band. I did know about _How the Last Day Came and Stayed Then Faded Into Simulated Rain_, and I think it's a great representation of where Velvet Cacoon was in January.

CoC: You're putting out a new CD, _Northsuite_, which is actually made up of two previous releases: _Chapelflames_ and the _Music for Falling Buildings_ demo. Why share these two and not, say, the _Velorum_ album, which is supposedly more ambient / noise focused?

SGL: _Chapelflames / Red Steeples_ and _Dying Celestial Bodies_ are the two recordings we hear most people asking for, so it was only natural to select one of those. We rarely hear anyone wanting a copy of _Velorum_, possibly because of the reasons you already mentioned (its experimental qualities). I'm sure eventually all of those old releases will be out, but for now we decided _Chapelflames_ was the one to go with. It is being put out by Ivory Snowfish out of Oklahoma, and some people are speculating we are bitter towards FMP because of this, which is not the case. FMP has been an excellent label for a band like Velvet Cacoon.

CoC: Even though much of the fanfare and vitriol directed at Velvet Cacoon resides primarily in the Internet domain, it is a constant point of discussion and controversy. How much does the recognition matter to you? Can you imagine an instance where the attention would become too much of a bother, causing you to return to obscurity? Do you wonder about causing a fad, and how it might affect your own goals?

SGL: I'm concerned with neither the attention nor controversy that surrounds us. It's my honest belief that black metal was not ready for a band like ours. When you decide to do something different in an environment that hosts unoriginality and lack of creativity, you have to be prepared for some people to love it and others to absolutely loathe you for it -- and that doesn't even include the people who want proof of everything we do, who want to hear all of our old releases, who want to see our recording equipment, who want us to parade ourselves around so that they can use that against us too. It doesn't matter one bit to me. If people are waiting for us to give them a tutorial, then they should probably move on to their next insecurity. We create music; we don't assist mentally disabled children.

LVG: Velvet Cacoon is almost solely supported by the more quiet, creative and introspective people who generally reside on the far outskirts of black metal, and that is just how we want it. I presume our critics on the nerdnet simply dislike the attention we receive -- which is odd, considering they seem to give us more attention than anyone else. Quite the paradox. As for whatever fad may arise, it really doesn't matter to us.

CoC: Thank you for the time spent answering these questions. If you should become incarcerated, enveloped in narcotic coma, dead, or mythically retreat to the mountains, please leave us with some last reflections of your own preference.

LVG: Innocence is the last casualty.

[You can visit Velvet Cacoon's recently opened website here.]

(article submitted 23/5/2005)

7/18/2005 T DePalma 8 Velvet Cacoon - Northsuite
10/31/2004 T DePalma 9 Velvet Cacoon - Genevieve
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