An introspective delve into the abyss; a dark, perilous descent. An effort to cast light on something that lurks deep inside himself; something strange, something obscure. A harrowing journey undertaken by Antonine A. (Empty Chalice) titled Emerging is Submerging – The Evil.
What started for me as a simple listen to this record quickly spiraled into madness as I tried to comprehend its sheer depth and complexity. The meditative drones, the creepy warbles clawing in black space; it sounded so alien, yet it resonated so deeply. After falling under its trance time and time again, I felt an overwhelming desire to continue to try to understand the noise and soon thereafter, the artist behind the project.
I met Antonine shortly after Raffaele Pezzella (Sonologyst) introduced FCU to a bunch of his followers about a month ago. Through our brief conversations, I gleaned a bit about Emerging, Antonine’s day-to-day, Empty Chalice, and another project of his, Gopota. But his way of speaking stirred an aura of mystery about his body of work, the essence of his chilling soundscapes. I wanted to try and chip away at this mystery a bit further, to learn more about Antonine’s background, his music, and snippets of his life. So I asked him some more formal questions. Below is our exchange.
What are some of your earliest memories with music?
Nice question, honest answer: Poison, Mötley Crüe, Cinderella, everything about glam metal. I’ve started with some common movements, anyway I was always attracted by the excesses of life, then these guys were very attractive as “lifestyle” in that period of my life.
What did you listen to growing up?
From glam/hard rock/heavy metal I’ve moved to thrash, and immediately to death metal; one of my favorites band was and forever will be Morbid Angel, then I moved to other death metal acts such as Carcass, Obituary, Entombed, Dismember, and other names with I cannot report at all, it could be an enormous list. Almost immediately I then moved to listen to Immortal and Burzum at first, Darkthrone, Impaled Nazarene; I remember older people than me who listened only to thrash metal used aggressive and bad words with me, only while I became a black metal listener. Now one of my favorites band is Pest, from Sweden, with the album Lifit es dauðafærð—translated it means Life is a journey of death—that for me has more than a symbolic meaning, for me and my soul embrace every moment of my walks.
Also, I have to mention the Blood Axis ensemble, who is giving me many sources of inspiration, is a great model, and also, a great group of individuals (John Murphy, R.I.P.); I love the apocalyptic mood of their neofolk, for me there is no band as great as Blood Axis.
How did you discover the sonic realms of dark ambient, death industrial, and such?
With the album Malfeitor of Machinenzimmer 412 (now MZ412); I’ve started many years ago, by following the dark dungeon music of early Mortiis and Aghast, and immediately Raison d’Etre, the first Ordo Equilibrio and then passed to other scenaries. I was and still am deeply fascinated by the dark dungeon music of the early Mortiis (note for Havard Heleffsen: the 3 era too!). Yes, I’m really big fan of Mortiis; my favorite albums are The Stargate and Perfectly Defect; two different masterpieces in extreme music.
Did you have any musical projects/experiments before Gopota and Empty Chalice?
I had the idea in 2015 about another musical project, totally different from Empty Chalice (EC) and Gopota, but it wasn’t born. The idea was a concept more and more apocalyptic, in concept, but the kind of music was totally different; sad, but it never saw the light. This was the first idea-concept for EC. The name remains with me, and with whoever enjoys the music of EC. Many people are buried with some parts of me, and it would be really hard to evoke these spirits; I think that some things of the past would never rise again. Or maybe yes, but now it isn’t the time for the answer; it’s still, again and again, the time for questioning myself.
How did you fall into composing these styles of music?
In 2 opposites moments: one is the “perfect day”, when everything goes fine, and my feelings are good, positive vibes. The other is when I reach the point of non-return. On these weeks I spend of the most nighttime as a listener, simple listening, and I have no interest in composing, I only need to go far away from the most thought as possible.
Do you play any instruments?
I use some synths (analog synths, and semi modular), some pedals/effects, and after, a little computer usage (more in Empty Chalice, less in Gopota).
Gopota is a project between you and composer Vitaly Maklakov—who seems to be quite prolific. How did you form a working relationship with him?
We entered in contact in 2015, for the release of the first album of EC; but Vitaly offered me to build up a new combo, another project. So Gopota was born. When we feel to create something new, the flow will start automatically. Gopota doesn’t need too many features when we create the right mood of a track.
How do you interact with Vitaly when piecing tracks together?
We work in parallels and after, we mix together our “parts”; combined tracks, adjusted, normalizing process, adding voices (only of Vitaly). Vitaly also works on the images for the artwork. Normally, when the process ends, I follow the contacts for release of the album.
Gopota swelters in a vein of death industrial, harsh noise wall, and other abrasive, ear destroying sounds. What do you want to show listeners inside these corrosive and utterly bleak soundscapes?
Gopota is uncompromising music, is heavily uncompromising. This is the attitude (as the title track of one song off our last album Music for Primitive) of Gopota, the choice is made by the listener. Also, in the second album, out on the Swiss label Luce Sia in the fall of 2016 (Music for Primitive) you can find a quite dreamy track called “Attitude”; it is a really weird track, one of the best that we’ve done in my opinion.
Does your compositional approach under GOPOTA differ from that of Empty Chalice?
Gopota is “direct”, it assembles 2 minds, 2 individuals, me and Vitaly; we use less time to think, we compose, we make unions, we’re two free animals in the jungle.
How did you decide the name of your project, Empty Chalice?
I’m sorry but I cannot answer that yet; this is a personal issue that maybe could be revealed in the third album, if I’ll be able to work on it for its release during 2018.
You recently released a new Empty Chalice record, ‘Emerging is Submerging – The Evil’ (‘Emerging’), on Industrial Ölocaust Recordings. Relative to your first Empty Chalice record, ‘This Way is Called Black’, ‘Emerging’ is sonically less caustic, but it’s more unsettling. It gets under your skin, claws in the dark recesses of your mind, and peels back chilling secrets of worlds unseen. What spurred your shift in sound toward something more transcendental and introspective?
I think I am a real introspective person, even if I have many contacts and have no regrets to talk with anyone. For this chapter I felt the need to submerge into myself, to search for something really weird and obscure; obviously the research is not complete.
You quote David Lynch on the cassette sleeve of ‘Emerging’. It relates to plunging into deeper waters to locate larger, more abstract, beautiful fish. Is ‘Emerging’ a personal dive to uncover some hidden knowledge lurking in your psyche?
As said above, to let the light come in, I think it must be a great and dangerous descent, into the abyss of the self. More soul than psyche, sometimes I have fear of my psyche, but not of my soul.
I found myself consistently enthralled by the surreal and horrific noises pouring from ‘Emerging’. Were you in a particular state of mind when you created some of the hypnotic, nightmare-like sounds? What was your method in producing these songs?
Often my state of mind is compromised, not good and positive vibes, and then this reflects in my music.
What do you hope listeners will take away from ‘Emerging’? Your music in general?
I hope that someone will remember me one day, as for what I’ve done, and as what I was. I hope as well that the label which has released the album of Empty Chalice will rise again more and more, and get the splendor of a lost time. We’re seeing many labels being born every day, one by one, and after a while, they disappear. I think that behind a label at first there is a Person, which needs to be known, his life, his passion, his “work”. For me Industrial Ölocaust Recordings was/is not only a “Professional experience about an album releasing”, but most important is a Person, and his name is Mario Cardinale. Keep in mind this name, he will show many other great releases in the future! And follow Industrial Ölocaust Recordings.
And also, I have to talk about the great professionalism of a person who has helped the EC project with a stunning video clip, her name is Gabriel Edvy (BlackSwitch Lab, London, U.K.); she has built a sculpture of the first track of the new album Look into my Eyes. Let me suggest you check it out below.
This is a bit of a loaded question, but how do you perceive life?
It is a personal point of view that I think it could not so be interesting. I’m not a pessimistic/nihilist individual, but a simple “opened eye” person. With my troubles, my goals, my passions, my defects. Many defects, and less time, day by day.
Beyond musical influences, what inspires your work?
My life is a continuous source of inspiration; as said above, when comes the best/worst period, I’ll become again a “composer”. Now I live in a similar “stand-by” time, suspension.
How does your day-to-day look outside of music production?
As a normal, common guy, with some work and jobs to do, and with many demons to fight, day by day.
What does the rest of 2017 and even early 2018 hold for your projects?
Soon it will be released, the third album of Gopota, maybe in November 2017; an uncompromising act of powernoise and powerelectronics! This is the only thing for sure, and that release will be out as digi-pack limited edition CD by the USA label Silent Method Records. And, last but not least, the first live apparition of Empty Chalice ….
What has composing under Empty Chalice—as well as Gopota—taught you about life?
Empty Chalice and Gopota are two projections of my life, these are my shadows, that sometimes need to be evoken. Free the darkness ….
This concludes my interview with Antonine. Thank you so much Antonine for your time and focus spent on my questions. And thank you readers for giving Antonine your attention.
Antonine will be contributing a new composition to FCU’s upcoming compilation project. In the meantime, be sure to visit and support his Bandcamp page where you can listen to Emerging is Submerging – The Evil as well as his other Empty Chalice and Gopota records.