In a poll carried out in autumn some of you rashly decided you’d like to read an interview featuring Nazgul himself. And here it is – typically verbose, and quite possibly the least interesting thing ever published on Honour and Darkness!
To distract you from the content, there are some nice photos of parts of the collection to admire as you progress. So read on, honoured guest, but don’t blame Nazgul if you fall asleep part way through…
The first 12 questions came in from Hugin himself:
Q1. When & where (asks Hugin) did you discover my music for the first time, and why did you decide to buy some of my stuff?
A1. I guess it must have been sometime in late 2004 when I first came across the "Honour" demo tape on eBay. By way of background, at the age of about 9 (in the late 1970's) I was at school in England with my friend Anthony (Ant). He had older brothers who were into rock music, and I had older cousins who were listening to Status Quo and Rush.
I recall the day that Ant bought the very first issue of Kerrang!, and quickly we also became converts to the lure of rock and metal! My collection of tapes (shows my age, and why I like the tape format!) soon grew and spanned a variety of bands from Quo and Rush (inevitably) through to Iron Maiden (I was there when their debut was released!), Budgie (awesome and much under-rated), Judas Priest and Motorhead. It wasn't always that easy finding stuff from overseas, but occasionally the odd album from the Scorpions or Blue Oyster Cult would come my way.
This love of metal basically continued from then into the 1990's, when I started working full-time after university and lost interest in the then grunge-dominated scene. Rediscovering the wealth of music available via the internet in the late 90's it made me go out and find out what my old favourites were up to (most still recording, some dead) which in turn led me to find other genres and bands.
I was a huge fan of UK thrash band Sabbat in the late 80's, and then Skyclad in the early 90's. Finding Skyclad to be still recording with the Martin Walkyier line-up in 2000 was great, so I bought their albums to catch-up. In reading online reviews I came across reference to other bands - Cradle of Filth, Ewigkeit, Summoning and many others - so sampled their wares too. Eventually, through some providential act of fate in looking up one band on eBay I managed to stumble across the Uruk Hai demo "Honour" advertised on eBay, was suitably intrigued, and it went from there.
Q2. What is your favourite project/band of mine?
A2. That's a tough one. From purely a musical perspective - and if I were compelled to listen to one project only at the expense of all of the others - I'd probably have to go for Uruk Hai, partly for the variety present in the music and partly for the sheer number of releases to choose from. I can relate to the Middle Earth themed elements of the work too as I too enjoy reading the fiction.
However, it's a little like trying to choose between your favourite children: I also developed a soft spot for Hrefnesholt, stemming from the largely irrelevant fact that the project had very few releases compared to Hugin's other bands (!) and I rather liked the largely ambient nature of the early work from this band.
Q3. Will you ever do a printed version of the Blog in the form of a book or something similar?
A3. The thought has crossed my mind a few times to attempt a small book or photo-book. However, a number of issues spring to mind with this idea: it would most likely cost a fair bit, which means having to sell some to recoup expenses and I'm not sure how big an audience there might be for such a project given the Blog is a free enterprise to read.
Equally, the time needed to create something suitably different from a simple replication of the Blog pages (I imagine any potential customer would want to view something different) is an issue, given that normal life is pretty hectic most of the time.
Q4. How would you describe my music?
A4. Eclectic and unpredictable! The different genres occupied by Hugin’s various bands are probably now well known, and although there is sometimes a repetition of melody or theme it never ceases to amaze me that such a varied musical kaleidoscope has all been generated by just one man (for the most-part). It really does boggle the mind how many releases and songs Hugin has actually created or contributed to, particularly as for much of the time he is the proverbial one-man band. I think that the music created across his manifold projects can augment and compliment one's mood in virtually any situation, and it can be positively uplifting in the right circumstances.
Q5. What's the worst song I ever recorded...?
A5. I'm sure there are a few recorded in the After Aids and Schlaganfall days that would be pretty hard to listen to now, although Hugin still maintains that no trace of them exist any more! Of those releases that I have heard, I guess the one that I would find hardest to listen to on a repeated basis would be the Guts For Dinner demo. As this was pretty much a one-off exercise for a grindcore-mad friend of his, however, I suppose it's a forgivable travesty!
Q6. ...And what's the best song I ever recorded?
A6. *scratches head* Well, there's an easy question!? There are too many tracks that I would have on my personal compilation tape to merit picking out just the one. That said, 'Gondolin Falls (Parts 1-3)' from the "Honour" demo was one of the main reasons why I started to investigate Hugin's music in any depth, so it has become a particular favourite of mine.
Q7. Any special wishes I can do for you with one of my projects?
A7. Given the kindness and generosity already shown to Nazgul by Hugin over the years in terms of his creation of unique items and helping me find obscure old releases, it would seem churlish to ask for anything else! What I think would make an interesting set of recordings, however, would be to create something around the works of the author H.P. Lovecraft.
In my bachelor days I had an impressive collection of Cthulhu statues and memorabilia, together with other Lovecraftian works of art, and although now long-sold I find it a fascinating subject and surprisingly under-utilised in music. I once mentioned the idea to Hugin, and we tentatively thought that B-Machina might be a suitable project to carry such a concept, so who knows what the future might hold...?
Q8. Why don't you have a turntable :-) ?
A8. Mostly because I never needed one before now! I was a child of the tape era, and progressed straight to CDs. The only vinyl I've really ever owned, the odd collectable aside, came when I picked up the early Elisabetha 7" EP's and more recently the Uruk Hai vinyl releases. Now the only reason I don't have one is (i) because I'm stubborn, (ii) because I'm cheap, and (iii) to wind up Hugin!
Q9. Does Mrs. Nazgul like my music?
A9. The delicate and lovely creature that is Mrs Nazgul does indeed enjoy some of the more gently ambient moments from Uruk Hai and Hrefnesholt, which occasionally waft up from the Castle library into her lofty suite of rooms. Indeed, parts of Uruk Hai's "Lothlorien" are on her MP3 player as I type. The more raucous and raw recordings are not to the good lady's tastes though, and the weirdness of WACH and Bonemachine have been known to cause some distress to her sensitive ears and a disparaging eye-brow to be raised in Nazgul's direction.
Q10. When will the infamous Hugin Museum open its gates?
A10. Ha! The long awaited opening of the Hugin Museum is currently postponed, pending finding suitable accommodation to display the collection to best advantage. Prospective viewers should apply care of Castle Nazgul's email address – strictly by appointment only :o)
Q11. What are your favourite non-metal bands/project(s)...?
A11. Here's a good moment for any shreds of credibility Nazgul has left to fall by the wayside! I also enjoy early-period OMD and Ultravox, a bit of John Foxx, and London nutty boys Madness too! My desert-island discs top 10 songs would be very, very mixed...!
Q12. What's your favourite Uruk-Hai release?
A12. Ummm...I honestly don't think I have just one. I like "Honour" as it has significance for me in being the first of Hugin's recordings I bought. I value "Land Of The Shadow" as being one of the hardest of Uruk Hai releases to find that I managed to track down under my own steam.
Some releases are favourites because Hugin himself made them available to me and I know I wouldn't have found them anywhere else – the original "Uber Die Nebelberge Weit" and "Gone With The Wind" CDr being two great examples. Yet others are special as they are unique promo or unreleased versions, such as "Thousand Lightnings Strike" and "Enter Mordor", which are great items for a collector. You can't really pick a single favourite from such a list as that!
…and to the remainder of questions kindly sent in by readers, in no particular order:
Q13. What was the catalyst that made you want to start a blog devoted to Hugin's stuff?
A13. One of the determining factors was the paucity of information on the Internet about Hugin's music (this was in a time before Hugin's MySpace pages existed). As I tried to find out about the releases listed on sites like Metal Archives I became more surprised about how little had been written about the releases, even to the extent that there might not be a track listing or picture for some of them, and I discovered a number that were unlisted anywhere.
Whilst sites like Metal Archives was excellent for those bands recognised as 'metal' in nature (Uruk Hai, Hrossharsgrani etc), other bands - particularly Bonemachine - were virtually absent from any online coverage to speak of. Given the enjoyment that the music gave me, and the number of releases out there, it struck me that this was a very strange situation and that perhaps I should do something about it...
Q14. Did you talk to Hugin before you started it, or was it after the fact? What did he think of the project?
A14. I had mentioned in a couple of emails to Hugin that I intended doing something, but the ideas took a while to crystallise into something tangible that I could commit the time to do properly, and to a decent standard. Hugin has always been very supportive of the idea; it is after all good promotion for his work, but I think he finds the content genuinely interesting due to the variety of interviews and releases I try to cover and is always very helpful at correcting the mistakes that inevitably creep in.
Q15. Why use blog format and not a normal website?
A15. This partly explains why the Blog took a while to get going. I'm not the most IT literate person (pity the poor old fool in his crumbling castle...), so when I did my initial investigations into running a web-site it seemed rather complicated to set up and maintain, not to mention potentially costly.
However, whilst on honeymoon I managed to have enough relaxation time to investigate other options and the blog concept looked far more straightforward for my needs. Being free and template-driven were also rather helpful features. As I really only needed a dedicated web-address for people to find my ramblings online (assuming anyone would be interested so to do!) a blog seemed to tick all of the boxes. Hugin also had some of his sites up and running at this time, so I wanted to make sure it didn't overlap with them either.
Q16. Why not just update discogs.com with all his releases, or do you prefer the more personal and exclusive touch?
A16. Discogs was a site I only stumbled upon after Honour and Darkness went live, but even so I always wanted to launch something that was a personal commentary rather than a mere catalogue of available recordings or an addition to someone else's pages. I wanted the ability to share the artwork, talk about the music or the item without risk of the piece being edited or deleted by anyone else.
I think too the nature of Hugin's own approach to his fans - very hands-on and personal - reflected the way that I wanted to convey my thoughts about his music to the wider world. What has proven rewarding to me is that these other sites - Spirit of Metal, Metal Archives, Discogs etc - have used details first published on Honour and Darkness. That's been fun to see.
Q17. What are some of the more interesting queries you get in regards to your blog?
A17. The standard type of enquiry tends to be about whether I can help find a particular release, sell the enquirer a particular release, make an MP3 copy of something (the answer is always NO!) or if I have trade list. I'm always happy to answer any emails on anything I've covered in the blog though, so if you feel inclined get scribbling.
Q18. Be honest, not everything Hugin releases is gold. Which releases don't you particularly care for?
A18. Wash your mouth out with soap! Seriously though, it would be a lie to say that every release gets the same amount of play, as some do appeal more than others. Whilst I have yet to come across anything that was plain unlistenable, as mentioned previously the Guts For Dinner demo is best left on its shelf I think! The production used on Hrossharsgrani's "Sanguis" also mars that release to my ears, and whilst it's not a bad release I find "Destination:Hell" from Bonemachine quite hard to listen through in one sitting.
Q19. What does the rest of the Nazgul clan think about your blog?
A19. I keep my private live to myself (allowing for this interview as something out of the ordinary), so other than Mrs Nazgul - who patiently allows me the odd hour here and there to tap away at the keyboard - the wider Nazgul clan are unaware of my role in the blog.
Q20. What are your plans for the blog? How would you like to develop the blog further in the next year or so?
A20. 'More of the same' is the current thinking. As noted, I write the blog as my own tribute to Hugin's work and therefore for my own enjoyment first and foremost. Whilst it's been great that others have joined the site and/or regularly read my musings I don't feel a great imperative to change things around dramatically at the moment. Of course, I'm always open to suggestions and occasionally launch off into some new theme or other, but the primary focus of the site remains to draw attention to Hugin's vast back catalogue and hopefully encourage people to try it out for themselves.
Q21. What have you seen in the blog that people have responded to well, and what hasn't worked?
A21. Some of the interviews have gone down well I think, judging from comments that I've had (though this one might kill that trend off!) . In particular, I think the occasional chats with Hugin are well received, and the interview with Neon Asthet also seemed to be popular. Personally I think such interviews help to add a level of understanding to how some of the music was conceived, and it has been a privilege through running the site to have been able to be in touch with other bands and labels to discuss various releases.
In terms of things that could be improved I think the main area for me is in the number of photos in the early posts, or rather the lack of them. This has led to an infrequent but ongoing editing process on some of the earliest pages to add in more detailed photos of inner covers and rear tray artwork, which weren't always put onto the original post. I'm also not entirely sure why I thought green was a good colour for the side panels in the blog's colour scheme, but it's grown on me over time!
Q22. Have you ever gone back and edited or removed prior blog entries and if so, why?
A22. Occasionally I'll nip back and change something. Typical examples include adding photos to older posts, correcting inaccuracies (and thanks to anyone who writes in to correct something I've got wrong), and very infrequently changing details for anonymity's sake. An example of this would be an email I received from the 'other artist' in Ravenclaw (now in Folkearth) wanting me to blank out rather than print his real name - although it's used widely elsewhere online. I've yet to delete a post completely after it's been published.
The one thing that I do get wrong every now and then in drafting a post comes in loading or editing the photos. You have to load them up in reverse order to get the sequence correct, so if you get one in the wrong place, or inadvertently delete on somewhere in the middle whilst tidying up a draft post and deleting spare lines, you have to do the whole page again...that's led to a few moments of blog-rage in the Castle over the years!
Q23. Any embarrassing moments regarding the Blog - missed an important fact or gave bad credit?
A23. I dare say there have been a few, and that at some point they'll come to light if they haven't already! Other than a few small factual errors nothing that I'd call embarrassing has happened yet...
Mind you, in the very early days of my collecting career I did confuse Austrian Hugin with Danish Hugin (another prolific black metal artist, appearing in Sansager, Essoupi, Skjold, Blodarv and Aranruth) and spent an inordinate amount of time tracking down obscure demos from these bands! In sending the 'real' Hugin a photo of my fledgling collection during an email exchange many years ago my mistake soon came to light...! To add to the merriment there was/is also a Huginn in Italy, but luckily the extra 'N' gave him away as an impostor early on in the proceedings!
Q24. Which of Hugin's projects appear to be the most popular and least popular, and why?
A24. In my estimation the most popular project - and by a significant distance - is Uruk Hai. I think it's most likely a combination of the accessibility of the music entwined with the ever-popular Tolkien imagery that strikes a chord with a large number of people. It's doesn't have the overt clichés that some genres of music do (corpse-paint, bullet belts, leather and chains, etc) that can put off the casual listener, and on a practical level the band has had more high profile major-label releases than Hugin's other projects so you can actually find them and buy them! Generally speaking, the more experimental or out-of-mainstream the music becomes the less popular it seems to be for the majority of people.
Of the active projects, WACH probably would fall into the least popular category simply because of the relative scarcity of releases and the acquired taste required to listen to it. Equally, projects like Ceremony of Innocence probably struggle to get significant sales either as it is something 'new' and different.
Interestingly (well, for me!) from looking at distros worldwide and talking with people I would estimate that more people listen/buy (older) Elisabetha product than either Hrossharsgrani or Hrefnesholt, possibly as it is a more established 'black metal' sound with a clear vampire theme, and I guess this also appeals to sizeable numbers of people. Availability has to be a major consideration though: To find specific releases by Bonemachine, WACH or Manwe I've literally had to scour the internet for months in some cases. If you can't find it or listen to a band, its popularity is going to wane somewhat!
Q25. What is something missing in your collection of Hugin music that you know exists and you wish you had?
A25. An excellent question, and one that if anyone out there can help Nazgul with he would be very grateful! Currently, the top 5 in the 'wants' list would be the following items:
"Battle Magic" tape (Uruk Hai) on Werwolf Productions
"In The Darkness Bind Them" tape (Uruk Hai/Valar) on Lifeless, although this is a bootleg release I believe
"Ancient Battles" CD (Hrossharsgrani) - the original WAR pressing with limited edition poster
"Nachricht aus Mittelerde" demo (Hrossharsgrani) - another private pressing
"Upcoming Releases" promo CD (Bonemachine)
Of course, as Hugin keeps making exceptional one-off or very limited edition items for friends and has been doing for years, there are very probably promos and exclusive tapes out there that he's forgotten about and which would be gold-dust for the collector were they to come up for sale. Once in a blue moon one of these turns up somewhere online (the "Urd" promo CDr by Hrossharsgrani on eBay being one of the last), but otherwise it's likely that they'll become lost to history.
Q26. Has immersion into Hugin's material made you interested in other fields, such as the Lord of the Rings and general Tolkien scholarship? Runes? Heathenry? Paganism? Vampirism?
A26. Errrrrrmmm....no, not really. I was already familiar with Tolkien, and exposure to Skyclad had opened my eyes to Wicca and pagan beliefs. I suppose the two things that have come out of the last few years are (i) a realisation of how reliant on English I am as a language (and kudos to all those who have had to write to me in a language that isn't their mother tongue, it's made me think seriously about learning some basic German...), and (ii) listening to the split releases has opened my ears to other bands that I might well have missed otherwise, notably Valar and Symbiosis.
To answer the question in another way, I think tapes are one of those diy formats that has always had a certain charm and which can be home-produced without the need for extensive amounts of equipment. They are also culturally part of the underground scene now, so I suspect they'll survive as a recording medium for as long as the tapes are still available to find.
Q28. Who would you love to interview that's collaborated with Alex?
The recent development in collaborative recording on 2010 Uruk Hai releases, together with some new split releases, has created a host of new potential interviewees so watch this space!
Q29. What was the first CD/LP/tape you ever bought?
Q30. Where do you live?
Q31. What do you do for living?
Q32. What's your favourite painting?
Q33. What's your favourite place on earth?
Q34. What's your favourite movie?
Q36. ...And the soundtrack to your funeral?
Q37. Are you pessimistic/optimistic/realistic?
Q38. Your favourite food?
Q39. Your beer of preference?
Q41. Have you met Hugin, and if so, what was that like?
Q42. What other hobbies do you have?
Q43. Any backlash, hate mail, or denouncers that have contacted you in regards to the blog?
Q44. Any Hugin releases you own that have met an accidental demise?
In terms of physical demise, I have been incredibly lucky not to have any tapes chewed up yet. The Hrefnesholt "Wolf" CDr did stop working eventually and I had to get a back-up disc from Hugin. A few other CDr releases seem to be a bit temperamental in reading the track data, notably the "Damaged Sounds" release from Bonemachine (oh, the irony) and Uruk Hai's "Blutreich". So far though, nothing has been damaged beyond repair...yet!
Q45. What bands would you like to see Hugin collaborate with?
Q46. Approximately, how often do you receive a parcel from Austria?
Q47. For anyone that is looking to get into Hugin's material, what do you suggest they start out with?
The best thing is that if you visit the band's respective MySpace sites you can listen to samples and songs for free, meaning that if you don't know your Manwe from your Ceremony of Innocence, or you worry that neo-classical Elisabetha may be a step too far, you can check them out for nowt!
Q48. What percentage of your collection would you estimate that you have already photographed and archived?
Q49. How much do you estimate that your collection grows each month?
Q50. Who would be your top 3 online sellers for anyone trying to build a collection similar to yours, or simply for more information?
Another good source is www.discogs.com too, particularly for Bonemachine stuff, which can be hard to find otherwise. And, of course, you could do a lot worse than to email Hugin via his MySpace pages and ask him!
Q51. How do you find time to write such interesting posts for each item, and on average how long do you spend working on a post per item?
I think the "Black Blood, White Hand" blog and some of the longer interviews (this one included!) would be the longest to put together, being a few hours of writing after the planning. The reason some posts are shorter is because I don't always have much time to publish much, with other commitments having to take priority. My main rule of thumb is to try to give all of Hugin's projects equal coverage in the blog.
Therefore in any given month I try to cover a release by the 'major' bands and, where possible, to put something in from one of the less prolific projects. This is how the blog became a mixture of music and miscellaneous posts, as there simply is not that much around for some of the smaller projects to feature often. I also like to mix up the items, so will often follow a tape release with a CD, then a poster, then an interview etc. as I think it makes for a more varied read. Part of the freedom of the blog is that I write primarily for my own entertainment, so although I know that there are those out there who might prefer me to only cover Uruk Hai and who couldn't give a rat's ass about WACH, for example, I try to make sure that all projects receive comparable space.
I also try to drop in unique or one-off pieces on a fairly infrequent basis amongst the commercially available releases, as they are special items and are thus reserved for special occasions! Frequently I choose the next item simply by scanning my collection and wondering what I haven't played in a while - there's no schedule of forthcoming posts, that's for sure - it's pretty ad hoc.
I always try to credit other sources for quotes I use in my posts, but at the end of the day if more details about Hugin's releases get out to a wider audience then this is a good outcome and I don't want to get 'precious' about the Blog content - after all, the Internet is supposed to be an information superhighway after all.
Q53. What would you say is your most prized item in the entire collection - I know this will be hard, but if you could only grab one thing while fleeing from the burning castle, what would you grab?
Q54. What's the most valuable item in your collection?
A54. It depends on what basis you're measuring I suppose. On an intrinsic level, the most precious items are those that Hugin has taken the time to personally create for me, and which have never been commercially available.
On a financial level, however, it's more difficult to tell - as I've learned using eBay, something that you think is valuable only really has a value if two or more people happen to want it at the same time! Some of the box-sets and limited editions I own from Uruk Hai and Bonemachine cost over £50 each to buy yet I doubt that they would realise that if I re-sold them, particularly the Bonemachine stuff where there is a pretty small market for them. One might imagine that the really rare early demos - say, for example, the "Uruk Hai" demo by Hrossharsgrani - should be worth a fair bit in the way that the earliest demos from Summoning, Burzum or other niche bands would be valuable. As one has never come onto the market though, it's hard to know!
Q55. How many items are there in the collection, and how much has it cost you to put the collection together?
Nazgul thanks all those who took the time and trouble to send in their questions (in particular Hugin, lt, Nick & Michele, and Daniel), and hopes you enjoyed the read.