Welcome to “The Right Talk”, The Online Talk Show where The Right Hand Path speaks to Celebrities from the world of Metal music. Our Celebrity Guest today is Vijay Prozak, the Founder & Owner, of the USA-based “American Nihilist Underground Society [A.N.U.S.]” in this Exclusive Interview to an Online Magazine from India dedicated to Metal Music.
The Right Hand Path: Greetings from India! How are you?
Vijay Prozak: Greetings from Texas. Doing great here, glad to be doing this interview. You have quite the professional website and writing style. Hail to India, land of conquerors!
The Right Hand Path: On the A.N.U.S. website you’ve talked about the genesis of the name, anus being, for you, in your words “the dark side of the mouth”.
I don’t know how many people would be aware of this but A.N.U.S. was one of the earliest websites on the Internet with regard to Metal, you started the website in 1987 when the Internet was at a nascent stage and wasn’t all over the world.
What was your inspiration behind A.N.U.S. then? Is it a “For Profit” or “Not For Profit” organization? Please tell us what A.N.U.S as an organization means to you, its creation, your views and understanding of Nihilism.
Vijay Prozak: Most people are not aware that we started out writing articles on bulletin boards, posting them to the then-nascent Internet (via FIDOnet) in the middle 1980s. We later went on to the internet at large and finally the web, writing about metal and philosophy. Now we’re in our 21st year of publication and writing about metal, philosophy, religion and classical music. It has been a great journey, not only for me as a learner and writer, but with luck, for those who read us, too.
The inspiration behind ANUS was a revelation I had early in life, when alone in a forest, about how reality was constructed and the human response to it. I was at the time already aware that civilization was in decline, at least in the West, and horrified by how adults behaved and how reality was denied. To me, reality is a source of reverent awe and respect; it seemed to me that, in an effort to run away from death, adults were denying all of the cool parts of reality and living in an artificial, consensual, social reality that belongs to the world of “appearance” but not the underlying reality, which is a series of cause/effect relationships that are mathematical more than material, and I call it “structure.” The ancient Hindus referred to appearance as the Veil of Maya; Plato alluded to it in his cave allegory; even Jesus Christ pointed out that to really know life is to escape the self, and escape the selves of others, and look into how reality works as a process. I love life and want to always bring out what’s greatest in it, but fear we as a species are off-course and would like to correct that so the good times can roll again.
Since that time, I’ve found vectors of truth — philosophy, death metal, religion, classical music — that inherently understand both the nature of reality and the Romantic spirit that one has to have, both “amor fati” and a reverence for the cosmos. I write about these because the way the cards fell this time, I ended up being a words guy and not a musician, martial artist or sculptor. ANUS is the organization that supports the expressions of these truths, and it is not a for-profit endeavor, in fact quite the opposite: we could’ve made a lot more money running a porn site at anus.com and telling people things to affirm their apathy, cynicism, bitterness, ironic disdain, resentment and so on. But profit is best derived from things that benefit people, as that way not only does one feel better about oneself, but one’s audience does not self-destruct!
Nihilism is to me a gateway to all philosophy. It is the rejection of inherent value: there is no sign or voice of the universe that tells us what to do. There is only a reality that consistently rewards certain behaviors and doesn’t reward others. So our fundamental statement of nihilism is that instead of picking up on some form of “knowing,” as Nietzsche calls our human conceit of imposing anthropomorphic reality onto nature, we should study life — study reality, and the cosmos — and from that derive our wisdom. In essence, what’s here is here because it has worked for millions of years and beyond, and so we should view it as a superior order and try to understand it instead of “judging” it and coming up with our own preferred, false, social and emotional reality. Nihilism conflates directly to Hindu reverence, Christian piety, a Zen master’s slap, Islamic submission and Buddhist selfless mindfulness. It is an eternal truth known to all who study.
Nihilism is also a rejection of the false artifacts of a dying society. When people tell us there are absolute Truths, what they mean is that they want to impose their own thoughts and ideas upon us under the guise of being truths in nature, when really truth is a human conception — reality is consistent, and we can describe it and label some of those descriptions as “true,” but those are approximations and we have to be careful to not let the message replace what it describes. We need truth, as a concept, but we can abuse it easily by looking at the effects of a chain of events, or our personal perspective or judgment of it, and claiming that it is the cause of that chain of events when really it is the effect and appearance, not the underlying structure.
Growing up in the West in its decadent phase, we find many false truths floating around us — and these have their root in bad psychological pathologies that others have, which manifest themselves in unhealthy lifestyles justified by false mental concepts. These ideas are shot through metal music and its lyrics, the interviews given by its performers, and the ideology it espouses, which in turn is derived from modern re-incarnations of ideas from European Romantic art of the 18th century C.E. I consider nihilism the way to get outside the bad psychology, re-connect with a love of life, and start moving toward a more rational future. This idea I call “futurist traditionalism,” although sometimes I like the term “eternalism” because these ideas will be true in any and every century because they are derivations from the mathematical implications of the condition of life itself, and are not moderated by technology, politics or fashion.
The Right Hand Path: You are also known as Spinoza Ray Prozak, it is said on the Internet that after your conversion to the Continuity Movement you adopted the name “Vijay” and from then on you’re known as Vijay Prozak. What do you’ve to say about this?
Vijay Prozak: I adopted the first name “Vijay” after an Indian friend of mine I had when growing up and very young. He was a good dude. I wanted the new name to reflect my conversion to Hinduism, which I consider the original religion and the most philosophically sensible view to take of life, especially Advaita Vedanta, which is a philosophy I always had but was grateful to discover others had written down so I had words to use with others about it. “Spinoza Ray Prozak” was a name I used on a radio program of underground death metal and black metal that I hosted for six years in Los Angeles, from 1992-1998, during the latter half of the formative years of the metal underground.
The Continuity Movement is a fusion of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, my own thought and that of the ancient Hindus. As per the Bhagavad-Gita, all religions are attempts to describe the same reality, and so should be viewed as tributaries of the river of Hinduism; to my mind, the Continuity Movement is a modern statement of the basics of these ideas and an attempt to bring clarity to a time full of many words but few that describe any useful sense of organization or mental clarity. I want to make it clear to people that these ideas have been discovered in every era, and have been true in every era, but also emphasize the importance of Hindu learning: it’s ancient, it’s still valid, and it’s entirely consistent with the European pagan tradition and Greco-Roman polytheism. It’s also the one religious philosophy that’s coherent with science in its raw form.
The Right Hand Path: You’ve been a Death Metal/Black Metal DJ; please share your experiences from your DJ days and your view of Metal Music when you were first introduced to it and the current Metal Music scenario.
Vijay Prozak: I grew up in a house where classical music was the norm, and when I was trying to listen to rock music, I found most of it really repetitive, melodically crippled, and basically variations on rhythm within a pre-defined, spoon-fed harmonic space. When I found heavy metal, I immediately liked it for its assertive, warlike, healthy spirit. I didn’t want more music about self-pity or pitying others, or being hopelessly in love and thus helplessly lost in life. I like music and art about going out there, accepting the bad and making something great of it; this is the story of life, and it is told in infinite forms, like looking through the cuts of a diamond at light. You seem many forms of a truth, but that truth exists elsewhere, and not in tangible form.
Heavy metal had this kind of vision with its epic songs and acceptance of death. I got into heavy metal through thrash, which is a crossover genre of metal and punk best seen in bands like the Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI) and Cryptic Slaughter. From them, I got into AC/DC and Metallica, and then one day found Slayer, and thought, “this is the voice of sound I have always been looking for.” From then on, it was Massacra, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Sepultura, Master, Sarcofago, Destruction, Kreator and Prong. I wanted more and kept exploring.
At some point, the chance for me to do a radio show came my way and I really had to face some fears. I wasn’t a bold kid, or a popular one; on the contrary, I was (and am, haha) both a computer nerd and book-loving, forest-hiking kind of dude. The thought of public speaking made me somewhat nervous, as did the idea of being on the radio. But no one else was going to do it and this music was amazing, so I signed up first and figured out how to face those fears later. A year later, I looked back on all those old fears and laughed. They were nothing, but introducing people to this music and keeping it alive, that was everything!
The show that I hosted ran for six years, from the formative days of the underground (1992, with a apprenticeship in 1991) until the underground had lost its real momentum. By 1994, death metal was played out, although some of the older bands kept going in healthy form; by 1996, black metal was played out. Those were the real glory days of American and European black metal and death metal, and those genres have never recovered. In other parts of the world, that is not so: people are rediscovering these genres daily. If I had one wish, it would be for them to find the classics first and worry about what’s trendy later. The original death metal and black metal were whole concepts, where music was united with idea and image, like an ancient Greek play where words were sung to music as a warlike drama was acted out. People since then have been choosing the parts of this concept at random, and trying to mix them with rap, rock and punk, which results in reversion to a mean — it makes metal-flavored rock or punk, but loses what made this metal great.
What appealed to me about black metal and death metal was that they resemble classical music in how phrases are put together. Phrases are like melodies, but I use the term phrase because they are often chromatic, use rhythm and the difference between tones to create a shape of motion in the music. With death metal, they are put together in an order that narrates a journey, so that a riff salad of a dozen riffs and variations expands upon a concept with each new riff or repetition of the old. It’s not like the entirely cyclic compositional style of rock music; rock musicians misunderstand death metal and black metal because they try to understand them in a rock context, where shifts in harmony define the music. In metal, changes in phrase and the way phrases complement each other in a primitive kind of counterpoint, not harmony, defines the development of the music. The narrative style this produces is like classical music, although classical musicians misunderstand it because it doesn’t adhere to known classical forms (like “Sonata” or “Fugue”).
This tendency is the essence of death metal (and black metal) because it provides a whole concept. Instead of focusing on the material exterior, it’s a “going within” — instead of changing harmony for effect, change the shape of melody — that demands a more complex view than a cycle between opposite extremes. In this style, form and content are inherently linked and cannot be deconstructed and made arbitrary. Even more, it is an emulation of the process of life itself instead of an imposition of an artificial category (harmony) that has a single point of organization (geometry) which makes all other aspects of it arbitrary. As a result, it’s not surprising that death metal and black metal are naturalistic, meaning that they accept and embrace all the scary, “heavy” (meaning: of deep possibly threatening meaning) parts of life and convert that morbid outlook into an assertive, constructive and positive view — they make life a place we can accept, and find appealing, and want to participate in so we can fight it out and make it better.
A good novel will do this too; someone once said that Blade Runner and Neuromancer make future dystopias that we want to experience so we can go in there and fix them. It’s not surprising to me that black metal and death metal borrow so much from literature, especially Romantic literature, because they have this outlook. Like certain religious truths, the Romantic outlook is eternal and has been discovered in different forms through the ages by many different people. Death metal and black metal reject a dying society and look to nature and death to find the truth of existence, and by doing so, get over the neurotic fear and materialistic individualism that define modern society.
The Right Hand Path: Continuing from here I must say the Metal Music section of A.N.U.S. has been a treasure trove of information for me with regards to information about Metal, its myriad sub-genres; it’s like an Encyclopedia of Metal Music. Do you think there is a connection between Nihilism and Metal Music? If yes, what’s the reason?
Vijay Prozak: Thank you for reading. The only reason we keep writing is because people like you read… in fact, that’s why we started it. During the 1980s, there used to be a type of wide-open system — like a 4chan for its day — called the Metal AE (201-879-6668). I started posting metal articles on there and got a very positive response, so have kept doing it to this day.
The goal of the Dark Legions Archive, which is the metal-related parts of the ANUS, is to promote the underground death metal and black metal that has shaped the genre and delivers top-quality music. Life is short; listen to the best. We don’t do it to appear cool, or to be trendy, or to be anti-trendy, but simply out of a love for the music and the feelings and ideas it stirs up. To love something is to hate and fear what destroys it, so our commentary is often judgmental of boring, repetitive, pointless or disorganized music.
As far as the connection between nihilism and metal music, it’s absolutely there — but most musicians are not readers of philosophy, so aren’t going to spot it. The “heavy” in heavy metal goes back to Black Sabbath, who in 1969 were surrounded by hippies making music about how love and empathy would save us from the machine, and they saw this as a simplistic, insincere, manipulative viewpoint much like most interpretations of religion. To counter it, they made music styled after horror movies; in horror movies, humans must confront some evil that society cannot recognize and combat, and must find ways outside of accepted means of beating it. Horror movies, like metal genres, have very clearly defined conventions.
While I’m not a horror movie fanatic, I can appreciate them (and martial arts movies, and that’s about it from the video side of things) for telling a clear truth: the real threat we face is our own inability to find reality and act on it, and a disaster or honest struggle re-awakens the part of us that’s not asleep in the dream of social reality, and lets us know our true selves and so builds up an honest self-confidence that society can never create. Without struggle, we do not know who we are.
Metal by showing us the “heavy” forced us to confront a reality outside the social consensual reality, where marketing and politeness gloss over death and horror, and show us instead positive effects if we just sign on for some unrelated product or idea. Metal shows us a nihilistic world where the cosmos does not care if we die, cute bunnies get killed by hungry wolves, and our deaths are inevitable — and then shows us that the only way to live in this world is to rage with it, to struggle for something better than what’s here now, and through this constructive fighting for something worth dying for, to know ourselves and be confident in ourselves without relying on hollow praise for others.
This to me is the essence of nihilism. Nietzsche defines nihilism as a lack of ability to believe in anything; I define nihilism as a belief in nothingness, and a recognition that there is no “writing on the wall” or inherent absolute truth, only a universe in which we can make a lot of our lives, or freak out because of death and become ninnies hiding behind television screens. Metal is entirely coherent with this nihilism, and even makes its allegiance explicit with statements like “Only death is real” and “Death is certain, life is not.” We cannot shut out the heavy and only pay attention to the happy bunnies; we must praise both wolf and bunny, mouth and anus, life and death — and revere the process of nature that, through putting positive and negative together in a cycle, gives us the chance to have consciousness and intelligence at all.
In popular music, heavy metal (and death metal, and black metal) is the only outlet for such views. Punk got sold off into politics and found out that you can please a crowd with dogma just as much as with the anti-dogma bourgeois spacing out that punk railed against; rock music has always been a scam, invented mainly from European folk music dumbed down and made standard through six-note scales and simplified song forms. People growing up in this society need a source of not canned truth, but a gateway to realism, and metal music is it. Nihilism is an abstraction of the same impulse.
From the beginning, people have opposed our nihilism and metal connection. There’s a huge group of people who want to believe that metal isn’t art and doesn’t have values. They want you to think that it’s all appearance, and that drinking beer, wearing jean jackets covered with patches, telling authority figures to fuck off and buying lots of CD-shaped products is metal; I think that’s disrespectful to all the musicians who cared enough to put their ideas down in song form. Metal is a culture. Nihilism is its philosophy.
The Right Hand Path: Talking about Metal Music, A.N.U.S. runs a number of sites like Heidenlarm, mock Him Productions, Death Metal, Dark Legions, A.N.U.S. Metal Radio, and Gay Christ Records to name a few with regards to Metal Music. What’s the inspiration and motive behind owning and operating these many sites on Metal Music?
To me it sounds like a business strategy wherein a number of companies are created to provide what is known as a “360° Degree Experience/Effect” which is like a move to strangulate/suffocate the competition and garner more [market] share. Is there a particular goal that you want to achieve with each of these sites?
Vijay Prozak: Business is interesting to me because its patterns are similar to those of nature itself. We can see business and economics as a reflection of individual impulses, and the demographic/statistical-level changes they produce. In that sense, ANUS was a business idea, even if we had no intention of making money from it (and never have). I like your description of it, and it’s similar to what we are trying to do, except that we have no intention of suffocating our competition. What we want to do instead is present many different views of the same truth.
Also, over the years, opportunities have arisen and we’ve had fun making our versions of them:
• Heidenlarm was an attempt to bring back the spirit of 1980s text files about metal, which would be uploaded on “sites” like the Metal AE and provide metal reviews, information, lyrics and histories at a time when such things were rare, hard to come by, and ignored by the mainstream press — which was the only option outside slow postal fanzines at the time.
• The Dark Legions Archive is an attempt to chronicle the music of the underground in a style inspired by Joan Didion and other popular culture writers who found, in the new musics emerging, shadows of the past which implied that history not only repeats itself, but connected patterns were repeating and could be observed.
• mock Him productions was the name for our organization before ANUS really took over. We liked the idea, inspired mostly by Impaled Nazarene and Havohej, of out-of-the-closet blasphemy. Even though I recognize that truth comes from many sources, including Buddha and Christ, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of either religion in its raw form, although if interpreted in an “Advaita Vedanta context” both religions are fairly neat and seem to corroborate each other.
• ANUS metal radio was an attempt to recapture what I’d done on the airwaves in the early 1990s. It’s hard to seize the spirit of that time, before MP3s, popular internet, and thousands of metal bands vying for attention.
• Gay Christ Records brought to light the “dub trading” days of metal, when people would mail around tapes with dubbed recordings and ad hoc compilations as a means of spreading new bands and bringing forgotten treasures to light.
Metal music faces tough times ahead. At 30 years old this year, it has gone through a boom-bust cycle where someone comes up with a good idea, then a ton of people rush in to “participate” and dilute the idea because they don’t care about it, but are using it as a means to advance their personal agendas. That in turn causes quality of the music to fall, which warns off quality musicians because who wants to try to compete in a genre where people can’t tell the difference between crap trend of the month, and something eternally beautiful and powerful?
If you had to summarize our story, it would be this: a small group of people find beauty in the world, and decide to spread the moment before the realization of that beauty, in meme form, throughout the world. It’s like a riff — you return to the place right before the place where you started, so there’s always a forward momentum.
The Right Hand Path: It’s been a pleasure speaking to you Prozak. What would you like to say to the readers of The Right Hand Path?
Vijay Prozak: The Right Hand Path is a step in the right direction for metal journalism and metal. Keep reading. If you find something great in life, not only “never let go” but also, help it along. None of us created ourselves; we were all helped along. The cosmos contains an eternal divine order that rewards the good and loves a good, complex, rippin’ metal tune. Thank you for reading this interview, and thank you, V. Ganesh of The Right Hand Path, for asking these interesting questions.