Q&A: "Klassikill" Music Maestro Nondor Nevai On Crowd Intimidation, His Vast Vocabulary, And Why He'll Never Play Jazz Again
"The degree to which I want violence in my art is inversely proportional to how much I want it in my life."
Who is Nondor Nevai? For starters, the dude owns both the best name in the extreme-music vortex and a deranged panache that's either scary as fuck or just plain shtick. A mustachioed drummer, composer, and "vocalist" with sleazoid locks and muttonchops to match his demonic pretense, Nevai is an improv-metal massacre-er who's cycled through myriad insane projects over the years, including avant-noisemeisters Hatewave, sprawling experimental collective To Live and Shave in L.A., and the obscure but celebrated Vagiant (yes, Vagiant). Lately, though, he's teamed up with godlike metallic-shredding guitarist Mick Barr, and contributed to the punk/jazz frenetics of local groups No Mor Musik and the Rat Bastard Experience. Throw in two new albums -- one an experimental shock collection of sludgy feasts, spoken-word fuckfoolery, and weirdo piano stabs called The Best of Nondor Nevai, the other an imminent, allegedly epochal, currently more mysterious project called THREE TOCATTAS -- and Nevai's self-styled "klassikill" music genre could inspire NYC's next scene. Recently I attempted an interview; lucky for me, Nevai delved into his exploits via email, because there's no way I could've transcribed this otherwise.
Nondor Nevai (left) and Weasel Walter, just hangin' out
For those not in the know, who is Nondor Nevai, and how would you describe your aesthetic?
My greatest value is probably as a psychonaut. Psychonauts are action-philosophers, that is, we REQUIRE EMPIRICAL DATA, in other words first-hand experience in our quest to better know being. This usually occurs after we realize that history is written by the winners and mystification is far more common than dissemination in the available info pools. My secondary value would be as a proponent of aktionism, situationism, and psychoactive sound and motion picture. I consider those kinds of art the same format and that it is I, not the formats, that am alternating, often between 3rd and 4th density. Aktionism is moving, living sculpture; the sculpture is third density, but its motion is halfway into fourth density. Music is fourth density because you have determined the duration and the ending so that time stripe is closed. Aktionism or performance, like time itself, never ends, because it results in and is the result of an increate continuum, an integral process with neither origin nor terminus.
"Nondor Nevai" is stellar in terms of being a very rock 'n' roll name. Is it your real name, and if not, how'd you come up with it?
I found some meaning-of-names search engine years ago that said it meant "He who is prepared for a journey" in olde Hungarian; very apropos, let me tell you. It was my great-grandfather's name; he was a sword-bearing horseman. It's my middle name, and I adopted it in Switzerland on my 16th birthday. People think I made it up. Skullsplitter was a man's name.
You convey somewhat of a frightening presence, especially with your heinous barks while you bash the hell out of your drum kit. Do your fans and the general public approach you freely, or do you find they are afraid of you?
To reverse the celebrity-fan magnetic polarity is an exalted deed; this is, however, not my intent. I am giving my all. I am deliberately soliciting people's attention, and this being 2011, I'd better make it good. I focus my heart and throat and every other fucking chakra I can access during performance, but comprehend that the degree to which I want violence in my art is inversely proportional to how much I want it in my life. The general public tends to intuit this from my morphic field -- which is how humans exchange chemical and electromagnetic salutations -- and they can see that, though cloaked in gloom, I am an agent of fire and solidarity.
You have an album called The Best of Nondor Nevai, including spoken-word-y meandering experiments you called "Big Black Boners from Bethlehem" and "Gang Rape." Do you tend to veer towards shock value for the sake of it as self-devised shtick, or are you completely serious in regard to your craft?
This is museum-grade shit I am pushing here. Epicurean delicacies of modern artifice with fearlessly intrepid themes; a glowing speculum of alien curiosity in the psyche of the mass unconscious. My turbo-charged psychosexual brainpower harnesses organic holograms and manifests them through the onboard etymological, glossolalia, and incanted vocal translator. I'm so quick, I often wait until the performance itself before I begin writing on the fly; you're there with me watching as the fine art flows into being. It is often erotic and occasionally pornographic, even though money has barely changed hands. This is due to my robust satyriasis. I am also famous for being ithyphallic.
THREE TOCATTAS is your new disc; you shot a disturbing short film for one of its movements. What is the video about, and where was it shot?
The video is a short film advertising the heavy metal lifestyle and barbaric choreography specifically, its musical component herein driven by my new album, THREE TOCATTAS, possibly my best ever. Earlier I found a young buck dead on the pond's edge. He had a compound fracture on his right tibia indicating being hit by a car before stumbling and dying where he lay. I dragged him from the water by his antlers and left him for the coyotes. He had five points on him, so I decapitated him and hung the Head from a tree. I decided to go for a European mount -- that is, the antlers with the whole skull -- but instead of boiling the flesh away, I'd watch it putrefy over the seasons.
Who (or what) inspired THREE TOCATTAS?
The most conspicuous example of the form is Bach's "Tocatta and Fugue in D," that quintessentially profound maestro solo thing, piercing the firmament like the sword of atheism with ostinatos or fundamentals, or storming like the ominous beauty of an angry ocean in clustered polyphony. This example is apropos to THREE TOCATTAS, except that I am a relatively poor keyboardist; the virtuosity is exemplified on the auxiliary instruments (Throat/Perkussion), while the keying itself is tuneful but ham-fisted. However, it is not Bach that inspired THREE TOCATTAS. I've been meaning to do an amplified organ record for years. I've been focusing more on SOUND ITSELF over musical FORMS, honing the perfect distortion; isolating that ripping atomic quality that makes bar chords ubiquitously appealing but doing it on an instrument that invigorates the Lysergic ancestorship that Acid Rock shares with modern Black Metal. Idiomatically, this new album is Freeblasting Classical Black Metal (I call it Klassikill), but the metal community will I.D. it as Black-Noise.
You've played with Mick Barr as a guitar-drums duo. Are you intimated by his mastery of his instrument? Is it difficult to keep up with him?
It is quantum-physically impossible to keep up with Barr. Fortunately, I can (instantly) compose in 128th-note time, and perform 32nd notes on my feet while pressing 64th with my hands, so I can at least PLAY WITH him. Mick and I share an insectoid-thrash mind-meld wherein we can play our songs BEFORE THEY'RE WRITTEN. This method of writing has been designated as "free improvisation." But I consider our oeuvre as mostly through-composed and stored in an extra personal memory bank we can access individually or together.
Would you call yourself a pianist or a drummer first -- or something else altogether?
I studied piano for a few years from the age of nine or so, and I have always written on it, but it is to perkussion that I have committed myself physically, devotionally, disciplinarily . . . everything that happens can be defined as perkussion . . . even piano. I am a composer first and a drummer second; if I was quadriplegic, I would still write.
Is there enough room in this town for two iconoclastic figureheads, such as yourself and Weasel Walter?
There is not enough room in ANY town for Weasel and even just HIMSELF. We're talking about a man who wears jodhpurs and pulls it off. IMAGINE: the severity of opinion of the Hospital Productions crew BUT WITH TALENT. He's encyclopedic, avid, a fluently musicological polymath, and was researching VISUAL KEI while you were passed out. Lord Z [this is John Zorn, apparently they're feuding] should just forgive Weasel for being mouthy and allow the community to benefit from his infusion. If Weasel was mediocre, he would have been further integrated by now. He and I know something Lord Z apparently doesn't: if you're really a player, than rivalry is good. This is the athletic arts, ain't it? I wanna play with brilliant tough MFs, not ingratiating ciphers.
What can be expected January 29th at Issue Project Room, when No Mor Musik and the Rat Bastard Experience play? Will it be safe?
The fire marshall will be pleased, but that's where the safety ends. It's gonna be an ENERGIZING OCCULT RITUAL for the broken family. First, there's smoking punk-jazz histrionics from No Mor Musik, and I am tickled pink to tell you it's MY LAST JAZZ SHOW. I will never again play that kind of fucking music. Just 'cause you like a kind of music doesn't mean you should play it. I'm leaving it to the experts like Weasel, Marc Edwards, and Lord Z from here on out. The Rat Bastard Experience are going to murder your poor ass with musical energy. You will come so hard your viscera is gonna squirt like a PLAY-DOH fun factory out of your yawning rectum. We are bringing transcendental TRANCE DANCING energy music into the realm of modern progressive extreme metal. DON'T MISS THIS SHOW: A weird metal guy plays punk jazz, and then Marc Edwards, the real free-jazz MF, is gonna play metal!! All while the Kim Fowley of noise, the infamous Rat Bastard, actually expires on raga-rock guitar before your very eyes!
Since this will be your 'last jazz show,' what exactly will be your focal point as far as your musical conquests now?
I am dedicating myself to THE BEST IDIOMS EVER: modern classical death metal and psychedelic noisecore. My actual band is supposed to be a double string quartet playing these two idioms. That and writing librettos involving journeys I have taken out of the body.
Your vocabulary is rather extensive. When you're just hanging and shooting the shit, is this the typical language you use, and are your friends' reactions on par with "What the fuck?"
They get used to it and eventually intensify themselves accordingly.
Do you recommend people use a dictionary to know what you are talking about? Do you make this up as you go along?
No, because I don't speak mystifyingly; I want everyone to know what's being said so one can generally infer my point from the gist of my language, even if a particular word is unknown to them because they don't fucking read. I can produce this shit on tap, yes, and often I am exceedingly dull as well I'm sure -- but not as bad as Weasel.
What do you like about New York? What do you hate about it?
New York attracts those individuals who have decided to be the best in their various formats. It's for people who are serious about their shit. They are the best, want to be the best, or want to be where the best are, so they come from all over the world to be here and do it. We have the best restaurants . . . it's a celebratory yet competitive environment that produces excellence in the arts, crafts, culinary fashion . . . we're SMART, INFORMED and we PARTY BALLS.
Nondor Nevai plays Issue Project Room January 29th with No Mor Musik and the Rat Bastard Experience. THREE TOCATTAS is out in February.