Amid the murky world of neofolk there is a sort of counter-romanticism emerging of radical artists trying to buck the far-right trends and create something drawing from its own militant tradition, a world of resistance and folk practices and future utopianism. Martial Industrial, a neofolk sub-genre marked by pounding rythms and a militaristic vibe, may be even more overrun by fascist fetishism in many circles, but there is a counter-trend there as well that is looking towards anarchist history of revolution for inspiration. This is the tradition that Emerson Dracon comes from, the martial industrial solo-project from Argentina.
I interviewed Emerson about this project, where he gets his inspiration from, and how he sees his music as a counter-balance to the kind of media he was he was raised on.
How did your band come together?
Emerson Dracon, it’s me. It is a martial industrial / darkwave solo project from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I recorded 2 EPs. By the time I am doing this interview, the project is on a pause. And I really don’t know if it will go on yet. I moved from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, (same country but 1600km away) – looking for peace of mind, and better job opportunities. Changing metropolis office hours for lakes and woods and freelancings.
What bands inspired you in doing the work?
Quite a few. Since my childhood, I’ve been into all doom metal bands; then deathrock, gothic metal and darkwave bands. Particularly in this project, I’ve been influenced by Dernière Volonté, Der Blutharsch, Der Feuerkreiner and more martial / apocalyptic / dark ambient bands like Atomtrakt, Arditi, Orplid some more industrial like In Slaugther Natives or Militia and maybe some more orchestral like Chaostar, Der Blaue Reiter, Puissance and Gae Bolg.
How did you develop your sound, and how do you define it?
For me it is martial industrial / darkwave. I’ve been into gothic scene in Buenos Aires since 2003, as a DJ, and also organizing live shows. That process provided me an insight to understand the local underground scene. But it was not enough. I’ve played in some bands, as bass player, and also keyboards, but always had problems with members, because we could never match our ideas, and end up compromising the kind of sound we expected. In the mid-2000s I started to listen to some bands like In Slaughter Natives, TMLBAC, Krepulec, Toroid, Ordo Rosarois Equilibrio. Laibach of course. And a lot more. That was when I realized I could do something similar. A solo project, with revolutionary ideas, drums, synths and no pressure of time commitments. So, I started to write my ideas down. Normally, I use a laptop to compose, plus a midi controller. I program drums, and play VSTs and RTOs plugins to emulate musical instruments like bass or trumpets. I add to this the keyboards, and synths. And magic appears.
The 1st EP I did alone, at home, with Reason and Pro Tools, mixing and mastering. The second one, I prepared the model at home, and hired a friend’s studio (Hernán Conidi – 5 Elementos Estudio, also in Buenos Aires) that helped me to produce the second EP, record guitars, and develop mixing and mastering. I have a couple of reviews in different blogs, Heathen Harvest, for example; and an antifa one: Red And Anarchist Black Metal. But mostly poor feedback. Obviously, I do not have much resources to build a platform that a mainstream artist would need. But keeping it in the “cult” underground for me is enough.
There is a huge variety, it moves from an orchestral sound to almost black metal, do you feel like you are constantly reinventing your sound?
Yes, it is very eclectic, but has a common dark “synth” sound going through all tracks. I won’t tag it completely as “neofolk,” because social the imagination tends to think about neofolk as having an acoustic sound, strong eurocentric lyrics and… drummmms (lol). So, if you think about “neofolk” and “martial industrial” in particular, you will have to also think about darkwave. For me, it is the first step. I have a huge background with different types of sound from my music interests (from doom to punk, synthy pop to blackmetal, classical to local rock), and I try to blend them in the whole project. It is difficult to create an atmosphere and a political concept in a dark song. But being a kid with a lot of years in catholic scholarship, swallowing middleages paraphernalia and Roman liturgy, those influences were bound to end up anything creative I did. So, early moral Christendom influenced my musical ideas; but there was a main problem I had when working with those ideas, how to develop that?
Well, I can say that psychoanalysis helped so much to bring that mixture of ideas, feelings and layers of sounds together that allowed myself to regard each item and find a way to put together the final composition into a clean format. God bless Freud.
The music has a lot of romantic dramatism to it, do you see it as a form of theater or storytelling?
That’s the idea. Underground martial industrial is not very popular with left-wing militants, regular musician experts, record collectors, or even darkwave fans! So, I was always thinking about theatrical and visual elements to enrich the experience. It could be Russian Revolution (Reign Forever?), Buenos Aires being bombed (Fusiladora) or even a local film (Dirtnap Stories); trying always to mix greyscale with a song topic. As I said before, each song is composed to be a complete sensory experience, from intellectual compromise, historical revisionism, black and white and image composition, and a dramatic or bombastic chill… ufff, I consider this to be pretty ambitious.
What drives your commitment to antifascism? Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?
Since I was a kid I felt like all modern / moral / institutions like family, school, government, religion have enthusiastic stories and fancy rules that’ve been assimilated as “true.” This includes the TV and the Radio, media that influences your sense of what is true. They tell you “the news,” but there is also other types of news that highlights regular people. The newspapers did not contain the answers I was looking for. Radio played tunes that I didn’t like. Commercial pop and latin love songs. Bleh.
Argentina was launched into the economic stratosphere at this time: that was the tale in mid-1990s. So, as a teenager I started to look to new types of media to consume: independent radioswas the very first, underground rock magazines after that, and, finally, record shops. Then Nietzsche and Marx, Fromm and Heidegger (yes, him), Osvaldo Bayer and Lenin, Eduardo Galeano and Franz Fanon. And a bunch of cassettes, CDs, books, fanzines and territorial militancy.
You have to understand that in my neighborhood there was no metal, no post-punk; only rock or cumbia. And drugs and a lot of alcohol. And poverty mixed with violence. Harsh. Police. Suburbs stories and concerts everywhere. And the first wave of local hardcore and extreme bands during the nineties at the same time as the the middle class liberalism set in. All that does not match with the ideas of a conservative way of life that was set in our society’s institutions. We were poor, we were not white, we dressed poorly (or “different”), we only had a few bucks to have a beer on the sidewalks. We walked on dirt roads. And we found stories of inequality.
When you read about antifascism on social media, some people think it is just some punks getting into trouble. Hehe. So far so good. We are, more less, old punks that want a revolt and the system to fall. But now we should redefine that. You do it every day, in your job, with your friends, with your family, in the street, any place you go you have to populate ideas of liberation! To read books and alternative websites to fight against fake news, to find better options to consume every day: for example, to buy a local producer and not a multinational trade. And also why not vote for your own hangman.
Luckily I did not find white supremacy attitudes in the music scene. I know they are there: both in digital spaces and in real life. There are these kids that started listening to Burzum and think that Varg is their new idol. And there are neo-euro spiritual Thulean ones that believe that if you are not white, you cannot have any spirituality (no rights saying quietly). Is it even worth it talking to these people? I guess it is a waste of time. Discussions are dead, at least digital ones. All the haters only copy/paste bullshit to criticize your job.
Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist band? How does anti fascism inform your music?
I think underground journalists, musicians, alternative radio stations, blogs and independent labels have to work together. Spotify, YouTube and other streaming channels seem to be devouring both profits and will of the audience. They suggest what to consume. And create trends around genres and artists: the same old story. So, it is very important to boost, share and support the other side of neofolk. We already know about the side of neofolk that is not antifascist: it is white supremacist, “meta political” or “nihilist.” You cannot support a band that has Miguel Serrano quotes in its lyrics or wears National Socialist iconography just “to make controversy.”Because they think it is cool, or whatever. We have to fight against that. Smash fascism. We have to form a new kind of audience, give support to those alternative communication and media channels, and spread revolutionary content in all the ways we can. You cannot tolerate segregation, classism, or racism once. We have to bury that shit once and for all.
What’s coming next for you?
That’s tough to say. The last things I did were remixes, maybe that presages what comes next: a remix for for Morvge (Argentina) and another for Ash Code (Italia). In this moment Emerson Dracon project I consider finished. That does not mean that the project cannot be resurrected. Obviously it will need time, will and hope. Nevertheless, I am working on another project that concerns dark electronic music and,I’d dare to say witch house. In this case, it is looking into psychological backgrounds, mixing medication with synths. I don’t have a name for it yet.
What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?
Militia, The Lust Syndicate (not neofolk, but good industrial darkwave), Rosa Apatrida (not neofolk, but nice antifascist darkwave) and of course Jerome Reuter’s Rome, and any book or post of Anton Shekhovtsov.
While I am answering these questions, in Argentina, and in most of South America, life has become difficult to live. This is comes from a lot of places, not the least of which is the neoliberal policies of the state. They have a perfect combination to attack the working class: import devaluation, remarkable falling salaries, massive layoffs, increased cost of services, closing stores, following International Monetary Fund recommendations to attack things like pensions. And those political decisions pushed by a“firm hand,” using security forces that create new political prisoners and trigger-happy cops are reigning brutality on our communities. This is all covered up by the mass media.
All this implies that a new mass of unemployed workers are rising. We are battling as we fight for jobs, salaries, and just to survive.
A lot of people are working more that 10 hours a day, also with no days-off, to pay the rent, taxes and eat. The “middle class” also has cut off of cultural activities like going on vacations, out to the cinema, theater, recitals or just to have a few beers. They can’t afford any of it anymore. Only living-the-day at home, waiting for a change to happen. They are not planning a revolt. They are waiting to vote another government in with supposedly different politics and more popular economic decisions.
The Internet is not helping this fact, and is obscuring responsibility with fake stories. People are not preparing to do something.
We have come to a point where we need to discuss what kind of work we want: a neoliberal, denialist, ‘male chauvinist,’ lying, unscrupulous, racist, classist, society run by financial market fundamentalists; or a different one. Some anarchists could argue that we cannot change a society or any rule voting. But in Argentina in 2019 you can decide if some of the people can afford to have health insurance or even afford to have lunch. Surely we can discuss whether or not a program or party is revolutionary or not later, once we get our basic needs.
So, vote? Yes. And the most important opposition party could not be such a big deal nowadays: it is populism but, with class conscience, with freedom of speech, with free health and education (yes, here both are free), and with human rights above all.
And this last option has nothing to do with socialism; it is not Leninism, it is not revolutionary. Maybe we can call it a “popular progressivist wave.” And at the same line you have to face a Manichaean political situation that’s called a “crack” in the status quo. The elite vs. the popular masses. And the elite has always owned the means of production and can stop revolts from the people, or convince them to vote for their own executioner.
And beyond just the neoliberal economics, what we thought we had defeated is rising again: hate speech is everywhere. Hate against the poor, against immigrants, against popular field workers. Puissance post- modern lyrics says “Two hundred years ago it was common sense to have slaves, we don’t believe in that now. Fifty years ago or so it was illegal to be gay, and it was legal to rape .” So what is big business doing in Argentina other than giving the voice back to hate speech and violence? They use “big data” to appeal to racists to win elections.
And it is not only a local situation: all over the world this seems to be happening, because the rules of politics have changed. In Brazil with Bolsonaro, in Europe with the rise of the extreme right, and in the USA with the biggest clown show of all until 2021( if he does not get re-elected). All the right-wing bigotry, plus the media and the social networks where consumers just copy/paste ideas and re-send fake news. It is also a fancy cocktail of tools that opiates the masses: Google, Netflix and Spotify that “suggest” people what to consume 24/7. The rules are different, and we have to face that. For example, another issue we can mention is what we call “green wave”: the feminist power is here to stay. We are not stepping back. And we will reach for more rights: the decriminalization of abortion, same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana; that kind of “progressivist” issues that were very difficult to think about 10 years ago.
Check out some of Emerson Dracon’s Bandcamp releases here, and we have added several older tracks to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.