“The goal was to make it sound more cruel.” An Interview with Loïc of Autokrator and N.K.V.D.
After witnessing the surprising inclusion of N.K.V.D.‘s “Hakmarrja” in the recent Blair Witch film, I was curious about how these two seemingly incongruous works of art came to be intertwined. So, I sought out the mysterious figure behind both N.K.V.D. and Autokrator, Loïc LF, and found him both affable and gregarious despite the subversive nature of his work. Get the scoop on Loïc’s views on history, The Blair Witch, dealing with jabroni bloggers, and maintaining your sanity in the face of extreme music.
Hi, Loïc Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. For the readers who aren’t familiar, would you mind telling us a bit about your history as a musician? How long have you been playing music? What drew you to extreme metal?
Hi! I m involved in metal, as a musician, since 2005. I created N.K.V.D. in 2005, recorded a demo the same year, recorded the EP Diktatura in 2006, which was released in 2007.
With N.K.V.D., I released two albums too, Vlast in 2011, Hakmarrja in 2014, and a compilation called Totalitarian Industrial Oppression this year. And I play with Autokrator, we released the S/T album in 2015, and The Obedience to Authority in 2016.
I’m 34 now, and listen to extreme metal since I’m 13. I always liked distorted guitar sound, and hard drums beating, so I started listening to rock, then metal and then extreme metal, at a young age.
Your Autokrator project was born out of your N.K.V.D. solo output, correct? How do you differentiate the two, stylistically? Both seem to use similar imagery and themes.
Autokrator was meant to be a N.K.V.D. album first. But it’s very different in term of sound and themes. N.K.V.D. deals about political history, unlike Autokrator, even [though] both deal with authoritarian themes. N.K.V.D. has a black metal sound, and Autokrator a death metal one, to be simple.
What else differentiates these two projects? How much of the songwriting for Autokrator is collaborative since you have a full band with that project?
Songwriting in Autokrator and N.K.V.D. are more or less the same. Autokrator is not what we can call “a full band.” On the long term working, only David [Bailey, vocals] and I are working. Drummers are just session musicians. David has a lot of projects, and never felt the need to write or compose. He told me from the start that he preferred letting me compose and write, and prefer focus on the vocal interpretation.The difference with
The difference with N.K.V.D., is that I never worked two times with the same vocalist.
Do you have any other musical projects?
No. Beside these projects, I do mixing and mastering for other bands, I manage my own label Krucyator Productions, so I haven’t got any free time to start something else.
What other bands are signed to Krucyator? Is there a group you would like to sign and promote?
I created Krucyator, only to release my own stuff. I will maybe promote other bands in the future, but I already have a good amount of job, because I do all by myself. Writing, recording, mixing, mastering, promoting (in collaboration with partner labels), distributing… I don’t really have time to promote other bands, for the moment.
Could you tell us a bit about your songwriting process for N.K.V.D.? Do you pick a historical topic and find appropriate samples first, or do you write a riff and proceed from there?
I don’t sit and wait for the inspiration to come. It usually starts with an interest in a theme. I read and watch a lot of documentaries about political history and conflicts. Then, something lights in my mind. and I associate this “light” with a musical idea I have in mind too.
One thing you’ve said that you try to stress with N.K.V.D. is musical variety since a lot of metal lacks that quality. Do you struggle to make each song distinct, or does it come naturally when you start writing about different historical topics?
N.K.V.D. music was varied, on Hakmarrja. Diktatura and Vlast are more linear albums. I struggled on Hakmarrja to have each song distinct from the other. It was a goal for me for that album, to have all songs different linked to a single theme each.
You’ve gone on record multiple times that you stand against oppression and fascism, yet your music seems to dabble in this imagery quite a bit. I understand this as a bit of a subversion, like you’re exposing history (the N.K.V.D., for example, or the corrupt Roman emperors) to shed light on the cruelty of these oppressive systems. Is that correct?
It’s correct. I don’t admire rulers I speak about. Most of them are fucking bastards. To me freedom and peace are two important things, war being one of the worst thing. But I show things that can be hidden. N.K.V.D. songs are based on true facts, like a book or a documentary can be.
You said in a previous interview that people misunderstanding your imagery has been a barrier for acceptance. Is this still the case?
Well, it’s a lot easier now, as N.K.V.D. exists for 10 years, lot of people know the project. It’s not about acceptance, it’s about judging the project for what it is, and not misunderstanding it. Even if I still think, that if we had another name, and spoke about more “common themes” we would have reached a better level. But I don’t regret anything, I’m an happy musician, I never made any compromise, I always reached the sound I wanted.
I think that contentment seems pretty unique in the world of black metal. So many interviews I’ve seen paint the musicians as utterly miserable. How do you stay positive, especially when you’re writing about some loathsome historical events?
You know, I write about concrete stuff based on concrete facts. I write like a journalist would write an article, or a realisator would make a documentary. How I stay positive? I m in good health, I have my both arms and legs, my family is fine too, so I have no reason to be pessimist 🙂
Sure, musicians who play black metal, has most of the time a very dark part inside of them, as I have, I never denied it. But I never let the darkness invaded me.
I never drank much or took drugs (maybe I would have written better music with them 🙂 ), and always done a lot of sport. So many musicians take substances to be good at writing, performing and handling stressful situations of touring, promoting. But at the end, they destroy themselves. I never had success,or being involved in the wide metal business, but I’m healthy 🙂
How did “Hakmarrja” end up in the Blair Witch movie?
It’s still a mystery for me :-). Avantgarde Music has been contacted, in January, to have the song “Hakmarrja” feature on an “underground film” called The Woods. In fact The Woods was the working name of The Blair Witch movie, that was revealed in August during a festival. As the production was busy, they didn’t informed us of that fact. So I discovered it when an American contact, who saw the film, sent me a message.
From what i know, Adam Wingard, the realisator, is a big fan of Hakmarrja album. This featuring is unthinkable 🙂
Have you seen the film? What did you think?
Of course I’ve seen it. But I can’t have a objective point of view 🙂 It’s a good film, not as good as the first was of course, because it’s impossible. But I’m not harsh critic when it comes to movies.
What has the reception to Autokrator been like? I recall seeing a pretty scathing review from Angry Metal Guy, but I know that a lot of our readers and writers really enjoyed the self-titled album.
Ah this Angry Metal Guy review ^^ The best advertising we ever had. This review was no problem for me. The problem was when they called us “a pile of excrement,” in another review for another band. So I had a chat with the reviewer…
You can tell whatever you want in a review, as long as you respect the musician and the men behind the music. Concerning the first album, we had excellent reviews.
How did that chat go?
I first asked why they lack of respect, and asked him to remove this term. The guy told me he spoke about the album and not the band itself. He refused to remove what he wrote. I told him, that if we ever meet, I’ll kick his ass, because he ‘s insulting the band. I asked him, what he has done as a musician, to lack respect the way he did. He never recorded anything and plays the trumpet in a salon band.
I’ve never been against criticism when it comes to reviewers. It’s normal that a lot of people don’t like your music. A good reviewer doesn’t mean necessarily to be a good musician, and a good musician doesn’t mean necessarily to be a good reviewer. It’s the same when it come to sport, you can be the best player in the world, and become a bad trainer or journalist, and the opposite. But, you have to respect the man behind the music. I don’t think he would have use these terms if he stood in front of David or me, so…
The production on The Obedience to Authority sounded a little less crushing to me than that on Autokrator. Did you make a conscious effort to alter the production or style? Was that a response to critical reception?
Autokrator S/T was a monolithic, heavy thing. The Obedience to Authority is more brutal and dynamic. Besides the triggered kick drum, it sounds 110% the way we wanted it to sound. The goal was to make it sound more cruel and direct. The critical response was most of the time better than for Autokrator. Clever reviewers noted that we evolved. Our goal wasn’t to make a second Autokrator S/T.
You’ve worked with Iron Bonehead, Godz ov War, and Krucyator to release Autokrator’s music. Will you partner with these labels for future releases? What about Avantgarde?
We no longer work with Iron Bonehead, as vinyl sales were bad. And we regret that, because IBP is a fucking good label and they made a very good promotion for the release. I created Krucyator to release my own stuff, and to be more independent, it means that in the future, Krucyator will be engaged in our releases, each time. Concerning Avantgarde Music, N.K.V.D. is still in their roster. I would like them to release the next Autokrator album, as Avantgarde is a legendary label, with an excellent distribution. But Autokrator is very different from what they use to release, so we ll see…
Do you still have no plans to play live?
No, the more the time is passing, the less I have time and will to play live.
Are you currently working on any new material for Autokrator or N.K.V.D.? Both bands use history for lyrical topics; are there any specific events or themes you’d like to explore?
We’re recording the third Autokrator Album. Guitars are already recorded, half of the vocals too. Drumming sessions starts in November. The lyrical topics are secret for the moment 🙂
Can you tell us anything about it?
Songs will be longer, and will have more complex structures. Normally, one of the best, if not the best french extreme metal drummer will play on it, but I won’t reveal his name. Songs will have a more black metal influence. And martial parts will be more accentuated, like it was on the S/T album.
I worked on composition, recording, mixing and mastering from February to September.
You’ve got a new N.K.V.D. compilation coming out that combines Diktatura and Vlast. You mentioned to me via email that Vlast was remastered. Why did you decide to remaster it?
Well, there are two reasons for that. Before, the reason to release this compilation is simple: Diktatura is sold out since 2010, and Vlast since last year. The initial label never wanted to repress them. So I decided to unite them on the same CD. But I also wanted them, to sound coherent, because Vlast was the development of Diktatura. Vlast had a more precise sound, but was less heavy. So with this remastering, both sound the same level, and Vlast is a little but heavier, has the sound has been a lot of times considered as weaker.
I like the art for Hakmarrja that Juha Helminen designed. Do you have any plans to use more of his work?
No I won’t. This artist is a genius, but it’s too expensive to work with him.
Are there any other artists you’d like to work with or feature on your albums?
The artwork of the next Autokrator album is already done, it’s not someone famous who already worked on metal things with whom I collaborated. Concerning N.K.V.D., I will see in the future, but I collaborated with H & Secret Shelter design, with whom I have excellent relations, so they will probably be part of the design.
Thank you so much for answering these questions.
Thanks for your interest in my projects!
Totalitarian Industrial Oppression is out now on Loïc’s own label Krucyator Productions. You can get it here on Bandcamp. Combining both Vlast and Diktatura, it captures two of the most crushing industrial black metal releases to date in one excellent package. I especially like the remixed production. The thicker sound brings out the grinding weight of N.K.V.D.’s martial totalitarianism and better matches the razor-sharp riffs. Totalitarian Industrial Oppression sounds like Russian propaganda set to black metal, and it doesn’t get much more deranged than that.