OF THE UNIVERSE AND MORTAL AS WELL
Hi Philip! First off congratulations for “Nihil” and
thank you for this interview possibility! It would be nice if you could
introduce yourself to the readers of GM. Who is Mr. Philip Santoll and who
Hell-o Dalia, thanks for the opportunity to
introduce NONEXISTENCE to the people out there! NONEXISTENCE is like a
piece of art, a virtually created band that comes from the frozen darkness
of Antarctica. Unifying elements and atmospheres from two seemingly
opposite music styles, namely Doom and Black Metal, along with several
other influences, NONEXISTENCE has created something individual and
original: COSMIC DOOM BLACK METAL. In June 2007 “NIHIL”, the first
album, was released worldwide via Twilight Distribution and received a lot
of positive feedback from fans and critics since.
I am the artist who created NONEXISTENCE, thus making an old dream of mine
come true. Responsible for the entire songwriting, arranging, production
and performance of the songs, I have been working the last few years on
“NIHIL” to put it into the desired shape.
“NIHIL” is an album that impressed me for the music, for the
titles of the tracks and for the fact that this whole opus comes from your
mind as one man project. It happened to me to listen to your album and
review it in concomitance with another (though different, yet also BM)
one-man dark project coming from Italy (Mourning Soul). Therefore I would
take this occasion in order to discuss a bit about what it really means to
be a one-man project. Because this thought has never left me since then:
one man projects…you need to be extreme talented, cultivated and/or
dynamic and daring? And, in the practice, how is it possible?
After playing in several Metal bands for a decade I
found myself stuck in a situation in which I spent a lot of energy into my
musical activities but did not find the creative satisfaction I expected.
Working creatively with other people can be both encouraging and
frustrating, for me it had been the latter for quite a while. I was not
able to realise my musical visions with the people I had been working, so
the decision was either to surrender or to try a complete different
approach. Therefore I built my own home recording studio and performed
everything by myself. I don’t know if I am that talented, but I suddenly
felt more gifted while not being dependant on other people anymore. I’ve
had several years of education in guitars, vocals and drums, so when my
studio was set up, I was finally able to create what I had in mind for so
many years. The result of all this is the album “NIHIL”! It was a very
tough road from the first demos and preproductions to the finished CD, but
on the pursuit of my very own dream there was only the choice of working
even harder to accomplish my vision.
I suspect you are more then professionally informed not only about music
but also about science (in particular biochemistry) and philosophy… Is
In fact it isn’t biochemistry but cosmology ;-)
Since I was a child I have been interested in outer space and cosmology. I
have read heaps of articles and books about cosmology as well as quantum
physics and string theories. This scientific background is the main
inspiration for the lyrical idea behind NONEXISTENCE: “NIHIL” takes
place in the bleak deserted frozen blackness of a dying universe where the
inner self becomes aware that it is part of the universe and mortal as
well. Regarding the question for my philosophical background, I have to
admit that I did not deal very much with the opera of any famous
philosopher yet. And in any case, the album title is not meant to point at
the philosophical position of nihilism, as sometimes alleged.
In “NIHIL” there are influences from Black Metal, Gothic, Doom, a bit
of Cyber; and old PARADISE LOST of course and THROWS OF DAWN of the
“Quicksilver Clouds” era in the song “FALLEN APART”. And the
opener “A MYRIAD OF DEAD STARS” is a bit pink-floydian in its very
beginning. Are these the roots that bring to Cosmic Doom Black Metal?
I think you figured it out quite well, apart from
THROWS OF DAWN, who I am unfamiliar with. PINK FLOYD is the very first
band I remember, I’ve been listening to them for my entire life. Being
compared with them is the best compliment one can receive! And PARADISE
LOST were such an inspiration to both my musical interest and own
activities, that their influence will always shine through I guess. My
other main influence comes from a couple of years in a Black Metal band
that shaped my style of writing and performing. Apart from that, I like to
listen to many other music styles as well e.g. Gothic, Ambient, Trip Hop
and Progressive, so a lot of different elements may be discovered in my
songs, I guess. But the main idea behind NONEXISTENCE was to create a
symbiosis of Doom and Black Metal that sounds naturally and unique.
I would like to go on speaking, if possible, about the concept behind the
word Antarctica. Why did you say “NIHIL” was born in Antarctica?
Antarctica is a place associated with coldness,
darkness, emptiness and loneliness, things that are not only very
important for NONEXISTENCE but also resembling the vast empty spaces out
there in the universe. The origin of NONEXISTENCE is meant symbolically. I
spent the last few years, while working on “NIHIL”, in such an
“Antarctic” state, in which my mind was focussed on these things. I
felt like being lost in a cold deserted darkness, therefore Antarctica to
me is the true origin of my art, in an emotional way. And for a virtual
band like NONEXISTENCE this sounds like a convenient home!
I am also interested to know more about the work at the studio, about the
mixing and mastering. Finally how much time was needed in order to
complete this opus, starting from the idea till the CD ready in the music
From the first demos to the release date it took
five years. I had to experiment a lot and to find out how I wanted my
songs to sound. They have all developed from guitar based Doom songs
without any keyboards at all to those complex orchestral sounds you can
hear now. I made several preproduction versions of the songs, then I
started with the “real” recordings. The recording sessions had already
taken a very long time before I realised that I was in need of somebody
else’s help regarding mixing and mastering. Therefore I went to
dbRecordings (www.dbrecordings.com), where “NIHIL” was put into its
final shape. Guitars and vocals had already been recorded by me, but for
the virtual instruments, especially drums and bass, the most suitable
sounds and samples were chosen at dbRecordings.
“SIRIUS” is one of the most imposing tracks, concerning vocals too.
There is much feeling in this song. Which is the message?
Sirius is the brightest star on the firmament and
shines beautifully in every colour. It is a reminder of unreachable beauty
that encourages you to persist and overcome all the pain of loss and
distress. Even if your life may be shrouded in bleakness and despair,
there will always be some beauty beyond all that, which makes worth all
your suffering. The song “SIRIUS” describes the moment when your
entire life is falling apart. It is a heavy Doom song with opulent
arrangements and walls of guitars. The lyrics are very personal to me,
such as all of my songs. I tried to transpose the emotions into the
elegiac guitar leads and variant vocals.
By the way vocals. How would you define yours?
My music style allows me to use a broad range of
different vocal techniques. Apart from my clean voice both sung and
whispered I use several kinds of “evil” techniques ranging from low
Death Metal grunts to high Black Metal shrieks. Thus I may perform the
vocals in a way that expresses the emotional aspect of the lyrics. I had
several years of vocal training that helps me very much, although my
former vocal teacher never wanted me to use those “evil” techniques,
so I had to develop them on my own. I am very proud of my grim vocals now!
“METASTABILITY”: This is the track closing “NIHIL”, an album which
is opened by “A MYRIAD OF DEAD STARS”. Is there a common concept that
flows in all songs?
“NIHIL” is a kind of voyage and all the songs
are fading into each other. The album is meant to be a whole, both
lyrically and musically. It starts where it ends: In complete and utter
darkness. In between there is a vast emptiness, in which the inner self
becomes conscious and finds itself lost in the darkness of a dying
universe. The lyrics are mostly metaphorical and give space to the
listener’s personal interpretation. There are several layers of meaning
hidden between the lines, referring to the universe and the personal
Have you already performed live as NONEXISTENCE? If not, will there be any
possibility about or is it a hopeless wish?
Up to now there have not been any live performances
of NONEXISTENCE and there won’t be any in the near future. Maybe I will
take care of recruiting some session members after the completion of the
next album, but there are no concrete plans for that yet. This subject is
still undecided, so there are some small chances of course!
How wide are the possibilities of evolution for Black and Doom? And which
is the best genre Doom can hybridize with? In your opinion, can a kind of
genetic engineering of music be really present? If yes which are, in your
opinion, the disease-related genes of music, if any?
I do not categorise music very much, as all the
genre names are only a raw approximation to what a band really plays. For
many of the bands I listen to I do not even have the slightest idea how
their style could be described or called. The main obstacle to any
creative development is a lack of experimentation with new ways of
expressing the music. Heavy Metal is typically based upon the classical
Rock band line-up, so it will still take some time until the possibilities
of virtual instruments and electronic music producing will have an impact
on the development of “new genres”. Black Metal in its rawest form has
a very narrow definition, so its development will not go too far I guess.
Doom Metal is more variant, so there are more ways to develop it further I
Which are your favourite instruments? And which one do you prefer to play?
In particular how is your feeling with piano and synth? And programming?
Actually I enjoy playing all the instruments I once
learned, which are guitars, drums and vocals, but my favourite instrument
is definitely the guitar. I’ve been playing it for twenty years now, and
although I really disliked it in the beginning, as the classical guitar
did not attract me very much, I started enjoying it when I got my fist
electric guitar 15 years ago. Nothing compares to the distorted electric
guitar, this is the true essence of Rock music! All NONEXISTENCE songs are
originally written on the guitar, some of them even on my western guitar!
Vocals are a lot harder to perform and I spent a lot of time for them
during the recording sessions. Regarding piano and synth I have to admit
that I can’t play the piano at all! All programming is done by the PC
mouse, including drums, bass guitar, piano, choirs, strings and pads.
What do you think about the music business?
As a have worked in the music industry for a while,
I have quite a complex awareness and opinion and understand all the three
parts of the music business: The fans, the bands and the industry. It is
just an industry like many others, but it is about art and there are many
people who seek for a deeper meaning, as music is able to reach your
deepest emotions. You should not idolize artists just because of their art
or condemn the industry for making that art available and making business
Do you have a "normal" webpage besides the one in Myspace?
I’ve been planning for quite a while to create my
own website, but this project has not yet started. As for now, there is
only the Myspace site.
Is there anything “holy” for you?
As I do not believe in any religion or religious
concept, the word “holy” has not really a meaning to me. “Holy”
compared to what? Is there anything that makes something “holy” or is
it a quality that comes out of itself? Maybe life and the fact that there
is something that exists, such as our universe, is “holy”…
For you, what is music? A language, a passion, a companion, a medicine…?
And how old were you when you began to work with music?
I’ve been surrounded by music for my entire life
and it always meant a lot to me. Discovering Heavy Metal at the age of ten
was a revelation to me, it was the music I had always been waiting for.
The same thing with Doom Metal five years later. I started to learn the
guitar at the age of nine and formed my first band at the age of fourteen.
After a while of covering METALLICA, SEPULTURA and SLAYER I started to
write my own songs that were Thrash Metal at that time. Soon I was dragged
towards lower tuned guitars and slower songs and experimented with Death
Metal and Doom before I joined a Black Metal band for quite a while. You
know the rest…
Would it have any sense to compose a music that cannot be heard?
How would it be possible to compose such unhearable
music? This question sounds like something to think about in a Zen
Typical GM question: the Game. In the specific, The Game of the Tower as
yours is the first interview to GM (first interview, first Game: The Game
of the Tower indeed): on the top of this bloody high tower 3 bands wait
for your judgment: you should kick down 2 of them, making thus a pleasure
to the planet. Consequently only one will be saved and spared. The 3 bands
for you are: NIGHTWISH, EPICA, DIMMU BORGIR.
This Game of the Tower is kind of hard for me, as
none of these three bands is really bad and all of them have plenty of
fans that would be disappointed by my decision. So I base my decision upon
the fact that I extremely dislike female voices in Metal music. I’ve
always detested NIGHTWISH because of their gay vocals and I guess that
this band doesn’t sound better with its new vocalist now. Therefore
NIGHTWISH are the first to be kicked out of the Tower! EPICA do also have
a female vocalist, so they are the next to be defenestrated. DIMMU BORGIR
shall be spared for now, as I like their orchestral Black Metal very much.
The last word is left to you for telling us your future projects and for
leaving a message to our readers! And many thanks for your time, Philip
... and for your Cosmic Doom Black Metal! Horns up!
As for the future, there will be another
NONEXISTENCE album of course! I’ve been working on new material for a
while and have already finished a couple of songs. It seems that the next
album will bring even more gloom, heaviness and opulence!
Thank you very much Dalia for your support and the
possibility of this interview! :-)
I hope all you readers who do not know NONEXISTENCE yet will check out my
right now and risk an ear! Stay Dark and doom on! Cheerz!!!
f. c. di giacomo 03.11.2007