The Black Flame: Infernal Reasonances – A discussion with
writer, musician, filmmaker, and misanthropologist
Magister Carl Abrahamsson.
by Reverend Raul Antony
an interview for The Black Flame—October, L A.S.
It was 1998, in an underground—literally, it was in the basement of an apartment building—NYC book and magazine shop called See Hear where my interest in both Satanism and Abrahamsson’s work emerged. As a voracious reader of the occult and counter-culture, I devoured everything the shop had to offer and settled on two prevailing interests, industrial music and Satanism. One day I was picking out some fanzines featuring Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle along with the Anton LaVey Memorial Issue of The Black Flame when another patron noticed the intersection of interests. He pointed out that The Black Flame issue contained an article by a member of Psychic TV who had his own industrial band called White Stains (a reference to Crowley’s collection of poetry). And yes, the issue contained a touching memorial of LaVey by Mr. Carl Abrahamsson, the Satanist of Letters. That same night I went to one of the local record stores and, lo-and-behold, a used copy of Why Not For Ever? was waiting for me in the bin where all the out-of-print industrial/experimental records were held. That album and other White Stains releases would provide me with a soundtrack through many
forbidden late-night excursions and remain a lasting influence in my taste for experimental rhythmic music (the tracks
‘Time, Gentleman‘ and
‘Soft Explosion‘ in particular).
And here we are, 17 years later, that our paths cross again. It’s through one of those interesting synchronicities that I ended up interviewing Magister Abrahamsson for this digital revival of the magazine that initially brought him to my attention. In the years since, Carl Abrahamsson has been colliding elements of pop culture with outsider art, creating explosions of magical influence across the world. His printed work, including Reasonances and The Fenris Wolf, are antidotes to the ephemeral nature of today’s media, created with the intention to accompany the reader through time and personal growth. His writing and experimentations with magic should resonate with Satanists interested in Greater Magic, as he continues in LaVey’s framework of magic as a practical tool for change without the baggage of occultnik obfuscation. Through photography he captures the magic in the earthly mundane, and now in film he continues to pursue his passion for carnal art and documentation.
Raul Antony: About a year ago I read that you’ve begun an exciting new project called AN ART APART (trailer), in which you demonstrated an evolution in your work as a curator of eccentric artists into a series of documentary films. How did the idea of creating this series first come about?
Carl Abrahamsson: For many years I worked as a freelance journalist specializing in in-depth interviews with creative people. As the market for print dwindled I had to re-think. At about the same time there was all this buzz about the “market” needing “content”. Meaning of course stuffing stuff into technological platform voids. So I thought I might as well stuff some intelligence in there and make a series of films that could work equally well in art-house settings, on TV and online. The rest has been fairly easy. My work is basically the same: I meet people I find fascinating, talk to them, and document the meetings on video. Eventually there is a documentary portrait there.
I noticed you screened your film with Andrew McKenzie (The Hafler Trio), titled Giving a Baby a Chainsaw (trailer), back in April. How was the reception? What are your plans on releasing this to the public?
All the films will be available on DVD and online, and to the greatest extent possible they will be shown at docu festivals etc. The project is going to grow exponentially and when more films are actually ready, I hope for a focus on the series as such. Currently there are three films ready: Andrew McKenzie, Vicki Bennett (People Like Us) (trailer) and Charles Gatewood. Two more will be ready this autumn. What we’ve shown so far has been very well received. My idea is not to make esoteric films for the initiated, so to speak, but to present the work and attitudes of these quite radical artists to a new crowd, perhaps with a more general interest in art.
The McKenzie trailer mentions his “complemation” workshops, in which participants create music based the creation of the previous workshop, producing a self-developing creative entity. Did you manage to take part in any of this?
Not yet, no. But I did publish his book about the ideas behind the workshop and I find it very interesting. It’s a matter of taking rather abstracted ideas and turning them into a very tangible reality. I found a resonance there with my own theories about magic in general. If it’s not applicable in your own life on tangible levels, it’s not worth an iota.
What does the schedule look like for the rest of the AN ART APART series?
It’s a daily grind. So far, I’ve shot 12 films, and three are ready. So it’s basically a matter of finishing them up, one by one. But I will also continue shooting new material with new artists, so it’s a long-long-long term project. For me, it’s a wonderful learning experience, both on psychological and technical levels. Everything gets better and better, I think. This past summer, I’ve also shot my first movie. It’s a psycho-sexual nightmare vision called “Silent Lips” which is being edited right now. Working on that film takes a lot of time so the documentaries move along at a slightly slower pace now.
Kenneth Anger, Los Angeles, 2006. Photo © by Carl A.
Can you tell us a bit about your time filming and talking to Kenneth Anger?
We have met a number of times since the first meeting in Hollywood in 1989. So when we shot for the film, it was like resuming conversations that have been ongoing. Anger has always been a big inspiration for me and it feels great to be able to present him and his work to new generations. I went to LA in the summer of 2014 and stayed at the Chateau Marmont. So we shot there, which was appropriate considering what an incredible movie history palace that building is. But there’s also a lot of different material in that specific film.
Magic as art seems to be a very important element in your writing, bringing the hidden to the seen; which is actually a very Satanic idea. One application of Satanic Magic is as the projection of an idea inside your own mind and out into the material world. Can you tell us how magic is important to your art and projects?
I would say it’s totally permeating. And also the reversed perspective: art as magic. I would say that almost everything I do contains what I call a “meta-programming” or charge. I’m not always conscious of it and fear that if I were, the material would be too demagogic in a way. But both my own investment and the subject matter contain willed directions in artistic form. Sometimes it’s even thematic, ie that the text or film is about magic in itself. But most often it’s a clearly defined statement of intent with even more things going on between the lines.
That’s interesting. I’ve always seen Greater Magic as the balance of being both actor and director. You need to establish the vision and intent, but also place yourself within the setting. When done successfully you’re inside a temporal alternate reality, very much like a well directed and acted film. In that sense it’s only natural that you’d be attracted to filmmaking. What are some of your favorite films and/or directors that you feel inspired you?
One of the first films that really knocked me out was Polanski’s “The Tenant”. After that I became a devout Polanski-fan. Werner Herzog is a hero but mostly for his attitude towards filmmaking, I’d say. John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds”. Tod Browning’s “Freaks” and many of his other films. Kenneth Anger. Jodorowsky’s “Holy Mountain”. Ingmar Bergman’s heavy Angst-films. Zulawski’s “Possession”. Tarkovskijs “Stalker”. Kubrick’s films from the 60s and 70s. Jean Pierre Melville’s French neo-noirs. And of course original American noirs. Walerian Borowczyk’s “Goto – Island of love”. Lynch’s “Elephant Man”. Conrad Rooks’ “Chappaqua”. Fritz Lang’s “Nibelungen” and almost all of his films. And a gazillion others too. I find it comforting that there are more good films than I’ll be able to watch in this lifetime. There’s always more to discover!
You write about the growing dystopia in our current information-driven culture. That unlimited information is sold as a wealth of knowledge but it’s actually flooding the masses, making them easier to manipulate. This reminds of LaVey’s idea of the Invisible War, in that those in power will pacify the masses through demoralization and desensitization. What kind of steps to you do, if any, to try to minimize this in your own life?
I’ve worked hard to be in the position I’m in today, which is almost all focused on my own work. That includes writing, making films and many other highly satisfying projects, including reading books and watching movies. By being successfully diligent about this, to a great extent I’ve been able to exclude the noise that comes from normality (so called) and the related challenges. I actively avoid mass market expressions or a too clearly defined commercial culture. I avoid TV and the Internet. The web is great for promoting things and events but that’s quite enough for me. I need stillness and focus to be creative, and the overall aim for all technology-based culture is to keep people as far away from that state of mind as possible by saturation, tempo, volume and newspeak. That’s to be shunned, and I do my best. But I’m not overly concerned about it either, like in some kind of anti-stance. The water finds its own level and stratification is a solid and necessary fundament of life. If people are too dumb or lazy to press the OFF button on their remote controls, then I think they simply deserve what they get.
One of the more personally fascinating topics you’ve started to write about is Ernst Jünger. Reading Eumeswil was a major turning point for me, to the point where I’ve taken the Anarch archetype as my own Satanic metaphor. Can you tell us about how you came across Jünger’s work and his influence on you?
I think Jünger was absolutely phenomenal both as a writer and as a character. Very inspirational. For me, it began with Michael Moynihan sending me a copy of the book “The Details of Time – Conversations with Jünger”. Since then I’ve read everything available in translation into English and Swedish and his writing always reveals new stuff when I read it again. And Edda has also published a translation of his “Besuch auf Godenholm”, one of his more trippy short novels. But it’s not only the stylistic approach that fascinates me, or his life story. I’ve always been a creative loner and always felt a strong resonance with the principle that Jünger called “Anarchic” (as opposed to “Anarchistic”) and LaVey called “Satanic”, even long before I’d ever heard of them. It’s interesting how literature, films and music can really transport you into different states of mind that way. Those people are the real magicians: the artistic creations affect people long after the creator’s demise.
Your latest anthology, Reasonances, contains a particular piece on Anton LaVey. Can you tell us a bit about that segment?
It’s basically a reprint from The Black Flame issue after LaVey had died. But I wanted to include it in the book, as it is an appropriate piece to end it with. LaVey was a seminal figure in my formative days and to meet him was a privilege. He inspired me in so many ways and he’s still there. It’s not just that he was “cool” or the founder of the Church of Satan. I early on realized that he was a real magician and a highly creative one. He came up with truly new ideas and concepts. Many of them came from or through his own creative expressions: drawing inspiration from his music, love for movies, recreating pleasurable environments and even people. I’ve written about that in The Fenris Wolf 7 but it still feels like the tip of the iceberg. At the time (late 80s, early 90s), I was like an occult sponge in many ways and I did also produce a lot of material that was resonant with LaVey’s mindframe. Both LaVey and Blanche were very supportive of what I was up to. But what really united us was actually movies. Talking about movies and watching them. I rarely watch movies together with other people—it’s too much of a sacred ritual for me—but with him it was truly an honor to share that sacred experience. I was initiated into the magical universes of the Marx Brothers, Eddie Cantor, Elisha Cook Jr, Tod Browning and Archie Mayo, to mention but a few. Late night Satanic crash courses!
Have you begun collecting essays for next issue of The Fenris Wolf? Anything you can tease us with?
Yes, it’s a continual process that gives me much pleasure. This past year has been devoted to filmmaking but Fenris is always howling in the background. There will be pieces on Lovecraft, Robert Anton Wilson, psychedelic imagery, a critique of contemporary art, erotic mysticism of Hinduism, New Orleans voodoo, Greek mysteries and much more. I will be writing on the magnificent British TV-series “The Prisoner” (tracing it back to roots like John Fowles and David Ely). It’s currently growing and will be published early 2016.
It’s interesting how often I find those of us who share an extreme Wille zum Leben are juggling many projects and pleasures at the same time. It’s through these byproducts of our will that we achieve immortality. Understandably it seems like your musical projects like Cotton Ferox and White Stains have taken a backseat for now. Do you see maybe returning to those projects in 2016? How about any lectures or talks that you may have planned?
I’m happy about lecture offers and they do pop up more frequently. It’s not just the interaction I like but the fact that it makes me sit down and write and think. An intellectual incentive in many ways. This autumn I’m lecturing at the Munich Academy of Art and at a college in the UK. As for music, it’s very hard to find the time these days. I do love it, but I love writing and making films more. Some expressions can co-exist, others can’t. Films are by far the most intolerant projects. They refuse to share my time and energy with anything or anyone else. But then again, it’s an appropriate attitude and equation because films give back the most in terms of satisfaction.
Find more from Magister Carl Abrahamsson at: