Bullet belts, brutal makeup, spikes, headbanging, and hulking dudes howling into mics – these are the images that spring to mind when thinking about black metal. Meanwhile, drone music, well, it can call forth notions of chill, distant musicians exploring aural expanses by themselves. Neither seem all that welcoming to the outside world, but don’t get the wrong impression. There’s a lot of bleeding hearts in black metal and drone music.
Local musician (and radass DGO contributor) Cooper Stapleton was recently a part of two different compilations that are shoving dollars at saving the world. “Crushing Intolerance, Volume 5,” is a black metal album with proceeds going to the Indigenous Environmental Network and, on Stapleton’s own dark ambient label, A Moment of Clarity Recordings, “Vibrations of Celestial,” is a drone comp that benefits Doctors Without Borders (and they’ve already raised over $200).
Stapleton talked to DGO about subgenre hooligans and loners committing themselves to a better future for all.
How was the “Crushing Intolerance” compilation series brought about?In black metal there’s a subset that has grown and been allowed to exist that express abhorrent belief systems, like Nazism, and the whole point of the compilation is to act in opposition to that. When you get down to it, fascism is so antithetical to what black metal is about … With the current political climate, there is a lot of “Let them have their say,” and freedom of a speech as a justification for hatred, but that is something that there’s no middle ground on, in my opinion. You’re either opposed to hate speech or you’re allowing it to prosper.
How did “Vibrations of the Celestial” come about? I organized it through Reddit … I thought it would be fun to organize a release that showcased ambient, drone, and noise musicians. I was inspired by what Chase (Ambler) was doing with the Black Metal Alliance and the “Crushing Intolerance” series.
There is this image of extreme music and it being people in corpse paint or scary and we wanted to not necessarily go against that image but against what people might think we get out of the music.
Talk about your track, “Destroying Angel // Universal Veil,” on the “Crushing Intolerance” compilation. On this release, the track we made (“Destroying Angel // Universal Veil”) was focused on fungi. The idea, there’s an apocalyptic sense to it, but also hope. In the same way that, say, the human world can end, the plants won’t all die. It’s growth in destruction and observance of the minutia that is often stepped on or ignored.
There’s a lot of the idea of bringing attention to things that are left behind or overlooked. You’re exploring a note or a chord in depth over the course of 20 minutes and you become super familiar with it and feel all of it.
How are these compilations attempting to heal our broken-ass world?Beyond donating album proceeds to charity, I like to think that the music becomes self-reflection.
I went and saw this band called Sunn O))); it’s one of the loudest bands in the world. It’s a ritual of turning on their 15 amplifiers and there’s robes and fog, but after a point it’s so loud that the ground is shaking, your stomach is shaking, but it stops being new and becomes almost meditative. That’s my goal with the music – repetition that allows your mind to wander and focus at the same time.
So many people are just disenfranchised with being. I think my main goal to bring self-reflection out of the music and to foster self-actualization, in myself and others.
Interview edited and condensed for clarity.Patty Templeton