ImJudas interview: ‘Force the hand of chance’
Out now is “Yrjudas”, the debut album by ImJudas, the electro-rock solo project by Italian artist Maxx Maryan, founding member and male half of the electro metal duo Helalyn Flowers. Initially started as a noir dyed electro pop project back in 2016, ImJudas over the years added a rough guitar component.
Note that the 2CD version of the album ( available from the Alfa Matrix webstore ) holds a bonus disc featuring “Via Negativa” by Maxx’ deathrock metal project Black Shine Fever. On Bandcamp you can get both releases as seperate albums: “Yrjudas” / “Via Negativa”.
But let’s first dive into “Yrjudas” together with Maxx who we contacted earlier this week.
SL: Maxx, “Ritual” is an excellent example of 80s synthpop which has something of the typical anthems produced back then. Some Duran Duran, some Nick Kershaw and definitely lots of Killing Joke, it has it all. Were those eighties the perfect era for you musically speaking?
IMJUDAS: As a decade, the 80s represented my very first one of life, so it seems natural to me that I was heavily influenced by those sounds. Especially if you think that there is always a lot of music in my house, between my parents and my uncle who is himself a keyboard player, singer and lyricist. So, my first years of life were set to music by a very large part of what were Pop and Rock of that period, before, at the age of 7, I began to choose my records to buy and to take an active interest in the music scene. In particular, I remember that I have always paid a lot of attention to sounds and productions. The sound and the production of those years were space! So technological, atmospheric, full of effects and reverbs, keyboards to go, electronic drums … but above all great melodies.
That of the melody is a fundamental aspect for me and today I see that a lot of current music is lacking it. Yes, the 80s were the throne of good music for me. Alongside them are the 70s on one side and the 90s on the other, both mirrored and united by the desire to experiment and graft various types of sound. Above all, great cultural epicenters were spontaneously created. Most of the CDs I buy are usually albums from the 80s, be it Pop, Metal, Dance and more, and that reflects a lot of the music I make. Either way, mine isn’t a retro operation or kind of attitude, at all. I realize afterwards that I actually own entire skyline columns of CDs from that era! It’s simply because I really like it!
SL: Another track that has this feeling is for me the absolute hit track from your album, “People Of The Blame (canned anger)”. What is it about actually?
IMJUDAS: It is a protest song against the preset patterns of alleged protest that the system provides. It is above all an individual stance against the polarization processes of public opinion. Today people are exasperated, pressed about the mess that happens around and pushed to create an opinion and a kind of credibility in a few minutes, with a few clicks. But often the positions taken are those of the official factions. Expressing oneself freely is equivalent to being a fascist nowadays. Just look around, ‘politically correct’ reigns and it has the tones of a soft but exhausting dictatorship.
SL: Is there a perfect formula as far as songwriting goes for you?
IMJUDAS: In the initial approach I would say no. In “Yrjudas” there are songs born from the guitar (“Lost Boy”, “Without Us You’re Nothing”), from the voice (“People Of The Blame”, “There’s A Stranger In Your House”) or from synth and electronic programming (“Tulpa”, “Outcast”, “Apostatik”). Sometimes, since I always have so many lyrics already written without music, I improvise melodies on the sound of the words and so on. There is, however, a recurring element in my writing: inconvenience and devotion to chance. These are very important factors for me because they trigger a reaction in what is my primordial stream from which I extract my music.
SL: A track like “Origin” is fully industrialized as a song. On purpose to offer a black duck in the whole nest?
IMJUDAS: This is a very instinctive song. Paradigm of the raw idea that is refined thanks to the dynamics of pure chance. It all started with this tribal drum beat in my head and the obsessive “Guess who? Guess what?” chorus, which then kicked off the lyrics. I wanted the track to be dark and tricky. I knew I was doing something different than the rest of the album. It’s a bit like my signature, if you notice well it’s the same thing with “Spiritual Critical Gothic” on the Black Shine Fever album. I think it’s a way to take space inside me. Musically, I think “Origin” is very tied to my love for Coil.
SL: The project already exists since 2016, I have seen you gradually polishing your sound, how do you look back at your first recordings?
IMJUDAS: Actually, the project was born in the last days of 2013. The refrain of “People of the blame” was the first thing that went through my head, on the road with Helalyn Flowers, back home. I approached a few weeks later in the studio and the opening octave notes of “People of the blame” were the very first to be put on track. From there then in a chain with the rest, but not immediately in a fluid way. At that time I was very focused on what was to be the album “Sonic Foundation” by Helalyn Flowers (to which I will always be particularly connected to). It was only at the end of 2015 that I was able to put on a first 4 tracks demo that I ran among very few ‘experts’ (you were the very first) so far unreleased (but which I will publish as a bonus in the next EP / single taken from the album).
Initially, IMJUDAS was more an opportunity for me to go back to singing, and do it with my lyrics, since I have always written so many, always nourishing the need to interpret them through singing and music. I was born as a singer, before everything else. The first band I sang in I had when I was 13. So it was a bit like going back to basics for me. My voice, my words, a lot of melody on a synth carpet and a drum machine. Stop. This is how it all started. I think in my head it should have offered something really different than Helalyn Flowers (since I have never understood side projects that are almost the same as the mother-bands). This is why there were initially almost zero guitars.
But it already had a total rock soul. I don’t think you have to have high volume guitars to be rock. If I hear Depeche Mode or an album like “The Art Of Falling Apart” by Soft Cell I can see absolutely relevant rock and glam influences. This ‘format’ has survived over the span of the first released singles and covers I made of classics from Depeche Mode, Front 242 and Death SS. Then something started to get tight. I was born plunged in rock and the guitar is fundamental for me. Ok pure electronics, but, you understand, it is a PART of me, it cannot represent me 100%, but rather its hybridization with rock. I have therefore overcome my fear of somehow replicating my work with Helalyn Flowers, also because in IMJUDAS I can show further influences of my background, such as black music and rock n’roll of the 60s and 70s, otherwise outside context.
There was, therefore, a period of further layering of the songs with the guitar recording sessions, in which I can say that I had the feeling of having hit the heart of the project. A music band is a process of self-knowledge, it goes step by step, and each member offers his/ her slice of background. In the case of IMJUDAS, I had to dismember myself and then reassemble myself, like the deities of the old myths.
SL: Your usual partner in crime Noemi was not involved in this project, I guess she did act as a mirror to give you feedback no?
IMJUDAS: Obviously not in a main way, but still she is! Apart from the amazing art design that she was able to create in representation of her art factory Toxic Visions ( http://www.toxic-visions.com ), not only for IMJUDAS but also for “Via Negativa” by Black Shine Fever, logos, photos, artwork, everything!, but also for her writing contribution for the song “Cruel Times”, starting from her own idea of voice, then for the guest soul choirs on “Without Us You’re Nothing” and finally for the electric bass parts on the track “Uranian (Ad Gratiam)” by Black Shine Fever that she actually played.
Yes, since the very beginning of the project she has always been a beacon for me, a source of encouragement and inspiration. It was she who encouraged me to share IMJUDAS with the world, at a time when I was withdrawn and wanted to keep these songs just to myself. Always precious advices on how to make the most of my voice. Usually I don’t follow anyone’s advice, nor do I go in search of external opinions, but her point of view is always very close to my heart, as well as for everything that binds us besides music, precisely because I have a huge esteem for her as an artist in toto. She is the only one with whom I have ever agreed on the approach on how to make a band and how to stand in the public eye.
SL: What was your modus operandi to record your material? Can you describe the process from demo to finished track?
IMJUDAS: As I said, I have a lot of respect for what chance can bring with it. I always start by not curing one component at a time before moving on to another, but I quickly try to pull up in the shortest way what looks like a definitive shape as much as possible. A sort of transparent primordial chaos, in which the final song is perfectly outlined. Synth, electronic drums and bass are the first instruments to be abused. I get very carried away by the sound banks I can come across, so I don’t start with a rigid conception, but with the general idea of the song, because for me it is important to be able to make good songs and you can do a good song in infinite versions, with endless different sounds and it will always remain a good song. What I always do is sing, even improvising if I didn’t already have the scores in mind, on what comes out, even at an embryonic level.
It happens that I take my lyric book and I start pulling down melodies based on the phonetic sound as well. Then begins a series of overwrites, especially in terms of groove and dubbing of the instruments themselves. I am a lover of the wall of sound and large and airy productions, I am not a simple type, rather a very baroque one who, even when aiming for simplicity, always does so with a particular architecture. I try to have as much rhythm material, keyboards and electronics as possible (and even some choir-guides) before moving on to the guitars which represent a very creative and laborious phase within the recording sessions. As can be heard from listening, in this case I have a double soul: that of the rougher rock and the liquid and toxic one of dark and new wave.
Finally, the voices, for which I always allow myself a margin of improvisation that I like to ride as a chance to create new things that know how to amaze me and not make me remain closed in the fixity of the first expectation. I spare you the painful mixing and mastering processes because I still have to soak up the hangover from them!
SL: You also included an album of Black Shine Fever, a death rock/metal project, as a bonus disc with the ImJudas album on CD, that will be a shocker! Can you tell a bit more about the genesis?
IMJUDAS: Black Shine Fever was born spontaneously alongside IMJUDAS. Probably in the beginning one expressed what the other did not do. It started as an evolution in dark / punk and death rock terrain (but coated with black and death metal, the primeval one of Quorthon and his Bathory, so to speak) of an old black metal project of mine dating back to 1995, then took its own specific path, not only at a musical level but also at the level of an introspective path of self-knowledge, dismembering and dissecting parts of me under the effigy of spiritual torment and doubt.
This is why there is a perversely sacred air inside “Via Negativa”. I think it’s an album that has taken on the importance for me as a book that changes your life. In that case, I had to write and play it myself and then decipher its meaning. It was a very important experience and one that I will never forget. “Via Negativa” did not start out as an actual album project, it went through various stages of processing (there is also a three-track demo from 2015) before reaching its final form.
It was supposed to be released for a small indie label, but then the project vanished and I found myself holding one of my most important works in the drawer. “Via Negativa” was the black sun of “Yrjudas”, “Yrjudas” would not exist without the experience of Black Shine Fever. For this I asked Seba of Alfa Matrix to be able to release this double album, rejoicing in the final result.
SL: Was this a one off album or do you plan to do more with this, I actually like it a lot and it sounds so much better than what is usually available in that scene.
IMJUDAS: This double IMJUDAS / Black Shine Fever album is the result of spontaneous events, a story written by itself, not started with the intent of the final form. For this reason, its expressive power is perceived, which is authentic and disconnected from commercial targets and expectations. It would be great to repeat. Not so much because I have unreleased material from Black Shine Fever, but more than anything else it would consolidate my personal format capable of expressing my artistic soul.
SL: Where did you get the choirs from the “Metanoia” intro?
IMJUDAS: It is an excerpt from the Kyrie, mass for 4 voices by William Byrd, English Renaissance composer and organist. I have always loved sacred music (and liturgical too), thanks to my father who is himself an organist and tenor. The idea of incorporating Byrd’s Kyrie was inspired by an old Paul Chain song, “Armageddon”.
SL: How have you kept yourself busy besides writing music these past two dreadful years?
IMJUDAS: … writing music! Not so much for me, but on commission, see for example all the work I have done and am doing for Elyose, among others. I recently completed the album of my very first black metal project Okkultum Magnificentia (out now and available on Bandcamp ) which I founded in 1994, releasing various cassettes and vinyls between the 90s and the early 00s, before freezing everything and exhuming it in the last few years, closing the circle with an album such eagerly waited in the scene for two decades now. In the meantime, I am helping Noemi with the recording and production of her solo work which will be wonderful and will amaze many as well as further affirm her as the great artist she is.
Truth be told, the past couple of years haven’t been that bad for me. There was, yes, some boredom due to some limitations, but nothing that could define this period as “bad” for me. In the end I always do what I want, I’m a lawless. I am not afraid of institutions, I always keep myself informed and know my rights, so as not to be fooled by the authority on duty. For the rest, I keep going. I’m a master of getting by, epicurean, if you like. I live on the edge of society, I can consider myself an X-citizen. Music, the street and nature are my life.
SL: I lived during the cold war, you weren’t born yet I think? But it’s back again…. what is your take?
IMJUDAS: I was born in 1979, the golden year of disco music!, so, yes, I was there during the cold war. As a child, I experienced the end of the old Soviet Union live. My position is solely in favor of those who are suffering, losing, dying for something they never asked for. This is a war in which the mistakes of the world’s major economic blocs are being counted. When too many errors are recorded, then wars are waged to make a clean sweep. It is always like this.
This is a war fought by civilian volunteers and soldiers, both Ukrainians and Russians, who fall like flies for the interests of governments, greyness incarnate armored in the Kremlin, the White House and the European Parliament. People are treated as anthills and lands are exploited for resources. My empathy goes out to the poor people who are truly losing the important things in their lives. Both Ukrainian and Russian. And also to those who died during the war in Donbass from 2014 onwards.
We must not fall into ostracizing the Russian population, as I already see it happening. Culture is peace, it is unity. War is driven by the magnates and technocrats, not the people, unless they are systematically brainwashed at the cultural and media level by the states. This is a war for territory. In any case, talk is cheap. The fight costs life itself. As well as escape. And also to stay. Fuck the world, save yourselves.
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