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Fryktelig Støy - ''I want to tell stories and make noises that horrify'' Interview

Em Støy is the matriarch of Fryktelig Støy, a project that beggar’s belief with its intensity, honesty, and total commitment to the art. More commonly known as the Bassicrator of Oligarch, the debut release of ’Disappointment “ is a tour de force of unbridled anger and power. Raw, intense with the freedom that allows a solo artist to create with vison and clarity that changes the notion and perceptions of what is extreme art, irrevocably and permanently.

‘’A number of factors contributed to the creation of Fryktelig Støy in its current form, among them, the COVID-19 lockdowns, parenting two young children and needing a practical outlet for my creativity. And yes, being a solo artist (I have no intention of 'performing' at this stage) provides me with an incredible, luxurious level of freedom to create as I feel when I want to.

''Before I ever picked up my first instrument, I was a writer – stories, poems, and essays. I was also a visual artist – painting in oils, drypoint etching and sculpting. Most of my early works were all destroyed in a flood, and I grieved the loss of those things – but the only way to heal a loss sometimes is to create again.

''As a musician, I’m a rhythm section player, primarily. While I contribute something distinctive to every project I work on – be it images, concepts, tempos, beats, words, screams, riffs, countermelodies – often I am not the person humming the first riff or writing the lyrics. In these projects, I am often left uplifting someone else’s ideas. A few years back there I had a very acrimonious departure from a former band, and the only way to heal that loss was to create again. Something different, something mine and mine alone that no one can take away from me.

''Fryktelig Støy has been an idea of mine since about 2008, to have a project that is entirely my own. I have long had visions and ideas that haven’t been compatible with the bands I’ve played in, and this is my chance to create without compromise. It also gives me the chance to unify all my creativity. I dream the concepts, I write the words, I play all the instruments, I create the artwork, there is a conceptual tightness and tangible throughline to everything. I love one-person extreme metal that has something uniquely deranged and fixated about it.

The name Fryktelig Støy does it translate to horrible noise?

''It certainly does, and it has its own little amusing origin story involving a Norwegian friend and a joke that got a bit out of hand. I also like that it is annoying for Australians to say.

More importantly, I’m also interested in extremity, intensity, abjection, disgust – as a female musician, I don’t want to conform to gendered roles of softness and moderation. I want to tell stories and make noises that horrify.

''It is what it says on the box: a horrible noise. Which isn’t to say that what I’m making isn’t musical, but it definitely isn’t easy listening either.

Did you set out to create ‘’Disappointment “as such an uncompromising piece of work? It is very brutal in places with the use of speed or other cliches.

''Disappointment was weirdly born out of compromise and lack of compromise.

''Compromise, in‑so‑far as I couldn’t continue doing Oligarch at the time (which is my other band and resides further into the War/Death/Black metal genre) due to babies and lockdowns. Compromise, as I live in a house that shares walls with neighbours I couldn’t play loud, so I had to content myself with a recorded project. Compromise, as I am limited by my musical abilities – I do what I can, and I like what I do – but it has limitations.

Uncompromising, as I wanted to say a nice big ‘f*ck you’ to anyone who ever doubted in my vision, ability, or determination to continue making music and art. Uncompromising, as it doesn’t pander to an anticipated audience. If we are creating for others rather than for our own esprit créatif, it diminishes the act of creation and the output. And don’t get me started on AI art, it’s garbage. Passionless, uncanny, and unoriginal – a waste of oxygen to even set fire to it. Art needs an artist. Uncompromising, because I made this for myself. I’ve been listening to this album for years. I’m only releasing it now, but it’s been around for a while, finding its path into the light of day. It’s nice that other people like it, but that’s not why I made it.

''I am also supported by Dav Byrne, Mike Khrysaor and the Gutter Prince Cabal, who have uplifted my vision without attempting to compromise it.

''It's funny to think of it being 'brutal' because I always think of that kind of death metal played by boys with pockets on their thighs when I think of 'brutal' music. Using different tempos and frequencies to create different affective intensity is an important element of my musical approach. Fast, slow, high, low - pull back the bow then loose the arrow!

Disappointment it is not! The title does not reflect the music. Rather the thoughts and experiences within?

''Disappointment is born of rupture. I had some really awful stuff happen in quick succession – death, divorce, sexual violence, addiction, loss – and I found myself deep in grief. In my gallows humour, I said “I am going to write a concept album about my life and it’s going to be called Disappointment.”

''Then I went off and joined Oligarch and melted faces for a couple of years.

Then Oligarch went on hold when I had a baby. A few years later, I started doing some recording in my bedroom during the lockdowns and I realised that what I was doing was coalescing into Disappointment. Feeling betrayed. Feeling abandoned. Feeling lost. Grieving the life, you had hoped for. This is disappointment. I was processing all that emotional garbage that I had buried in my psyche.

''I started at the end, the whispered piano curse. From there, I wrote them in a weird order that jumped around a bit. Later, I found that I had unintentionally used a lot of female mythical and historical figures as motifs in the lyrics, and I decided to call out this common thread more specifically to unify the album.

The idea to use muses as confrontational spokespersons? It is inspiring and does it allow you to inhabit a particular muse per track to help as a dissociative device when dealing with such personal topics?

''This has ironically become something that people really love about the album, but it was far less intentional than that. I didn’t wake up one morning with the fully realised vision of a concept album of semi‑autobiographical, historical and mythological muse inspired songs of betrayal and overcoming. I wrote the songs and then recognised that there were commonalities between the songs, and as they sat next to each other, I began to bring them together and curate them, more like an exhibition of artwork. I have always loved the way that thoughtful curation can unify a body of work – a group of songs become an opera, a group of poems becomes an anthology. The praxis of creativity, pulling threads of inspiration and weaving them into something more than the sum of its parts.

''Transformative creation is the closest experience I have in life to spiritual ecstasy.

''Communication of these sensations and ideas becomes a communion. My atheist church of existentialism and Dionysian heresy.

''Back to your original question: I don’t hide behind the muses and embody them to give voice to something I am afraid to say from my own body, I just like them as aesthetic motifs. I’m quite happy to tell people what I think.

At times it feels painful like a desire that needs to be expunged from the system. Could Cassandra be an example? The axiom of ‘’ Are you alive enough to even die?’’

''Cassandra is my resentment towards the cowardly little men I have met. Here they come, fantasizing about power and a warrior's strength, while sitting in their bedrooms painting tiny little game characters, playing war games. Incel man‑babies, intensely misogynistic, suspended in a perpetual boyhood; hikikomori, twisted and grotesque from lack of sunlight and air. Abuse perpetrators, puffed up in frightened masculinity, barely worthy of breath for the contempt they deserve.

''Are they alive enough to even die?

''Cassandra saw the future. Loved by a God, gifted with foresight by Apollo when he was trying to woo her, but when she rebuffed him, he cursed her. Her foresight was perfect, but no one believed her prophecies. She was driven mad by her doubters. I have seen my future too, dying at the hands of men, as the violence by proxy – the slammed doors, fists through plaster, smashed property – grow closer and closer. I am alive enough to be killed, just like the hundreds of women and children who die every year in this country at the hands of pathetic, threatened men. I was lucky to recognise when I needed to leave, and I have lived to tell the tale. I was driven mad by my doubters. I’m sure there were plenty of people who thought my creative days were over. Nope, f*ck you, I’m back.

The emperor is wearing no clothes. It is a dangerous thing to speak truth to power. Cassandra is brave and I am Cassandra.

How do you explain the undefinable presence that lingers in your music?

''Hmmm, I think what you are referring to is my sonic palate. I have been playing music and making home recordings for over 20 years now. I am a self‑taught sound engineer, I tamper with reverbs, delays, echoes, and harmonics to create atmospheric sounds. Because I am self-taught, I am not hampered by the approaches of orthodoxy. This makes my approach a little bit unique, I think. I then work closely with my very knowledgeable and accommodating mastering engineer, Dav, to bring the final mixes together. I also had the intention of using long ring outs between each song to create suspense and a little boredom between songs intentionally. There is so much potential for surprising choices in making an album, joining things together or separating them, and yet many bands just put two seconds of boring silence between every song. Each to their own, but I wanted to have a bit of push and pull between the songs, create conceptual and sonic links between things. I also had a very clear idea of a story arc – like a hero’s return or a cycle of grief – to provide a journey for the listener. Awakening to the truth of the situation, the road of trials, the vision quest, the meeting with the goddess, the boon, the magic flight, the return threshold, and the master of two worlds. The protagonist is injured, wakes up to their betrayal, becomes embittered, vengeful, mad with rage. The second half is about overcoming, rising to self-knowledge and power. We look back at the end of the journey and understand it with hindsight.

''So yes, I think the “undefinable presence that lingers” is probably reverb.

What should someone feel when listening to your music?

''I hope they feel something different each time they hear it. On early listens, I hope to surprise you, frighten, and shock you. On subsequent listens, I hope to provide layers of interest, I have chosen these words carefully, I have layered these sounds. No two instruments play in unison, they all play in harmony or dissonantly.

''These songs were only played once, and once only. I wrote them as I recorded them. There was no material recorded in that first two years of making this that was not put on the album. There were months between recording sessions sometimes and I had shockingly small windows of time to record. It was hard to prioritize when I was breastfeeding and providing kangaroo care for two little humans, then I went back to work, and the windows of time got even shorter. Now the little humans are a little older and don’t need their mummy so much, maybe I will get a bit more time to make horrible noises.

Is black metal the perfect platform for you to express yourself so honestly?

''What makes black metal black metal these days? Screechy vocals? Blast beats? Shitty production? High-contrast album artwork? If I think about the homophobic, xenophobic, reactive elements of black metal, what do I have in common with that? I’m not sure they like women and even if they do, I’m not sure I particularly want to join that club. I have a more expansive vision for what I’m doing, I don’t really want to pick a ‘metal’ lane and then stick to it.

''I guess what I’m doing is black metal enough. I have played in black metal and death metal bands, and I just played how I play and sang how I sing. My fingers and feet move like that, my voice sounds like that. There are other influences in there for someone who has an ear for that kind of thing. At what point does music become a genre? What percentage of a genre do you need to ‘be’ to be that genre? I have no idea.

''Incidentally, my kids told me that they hate my music because to them it sounds like me losing my temper. If mummy gets the black metal voice on outside the recording studio, mummy needs to go into the other room and take a deep breath.

Extreme music is open to so many ideas an thought processes. Why is it so vital to you and will you continue down this path?

''I love extreme music. There’s something embodied about sonic intensity, be it volume or vibration, speed or frequency that is enlivening. I think that's how I found myself edging down the path towards metal as a younger person.

''I love lots of stuff that isn’t metal too, like Swans, The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, The Birthday Party and Killing Joke. Lady music like Portishead and Stevie Nicks. Lots of arty weird stuff like The Residents, Silver Apples, Hawkwind, Can, Faust and Neu! and prog rock. Zeni Geva were really important to my musical journey. People who know the breadth of my taste can pick more of the obscure influences. But also, I’m not really interested in making a musical tossed salad. I’m interested in drawing down the stars and singing like a banshee in the frost. Something earthy, primal, and authentic to my being.

Disappointment is a defined statement. What is next for you and your art?

''The question became "what happens after disappointment? Where do we go after disappointment?” The ideas for FS II are about fire, air, and ignition. Wings and birds. Death and birth. Transmission. The final parts are coming together. You’ll see what I mean when it’s done.

''I am also beginning to conceptualize FS III. This album I am hoping to take in an abyssic direction. A labyrinth, a mine. Caves and pollution. Terrifying, unending depression. No Hollywood endings, just utter misery. Should be a lark.

''I re-read some Nietzsche not long ago during a bout of insomnia. It didn't cure the insomnia, but it got me thinking about the dichotomy of the Apollonian and the Dionysian - the dry, light, logical, male rational heart, and the wet, dark, impulse of the female wildness. The messiness of birth, the blood and pain of creation. Is this the last great frontier for extreme music? The frightening reality of womanhood - the likelihood of abuse, assault, trauma, madness, illness - men have been in this metal territory for a while pushing towards the limits of the physical art. I am interested in how I can occupy it while being authentically me. I don’t experience gender in a particularly ‘feminine’ way, while still being firmly cis-gendered. I don’t particularly relate to the ‘metal goddess’ thing, make up and corsets and dress ups and stuff. I’m more interested in a conceptual exploration. The corporeal form is doomed to decay, while art is far more likely to outlast us.

''Perhaps I only feel this because I was orphaned relatively young, but I feel the need to transcend death through creation. I am pushing my creativity to provide my children with an artefact of who their mother was when I die.

Top six albums of all time?

This is difficult, and prone to change:

Celtic Frost – Monotheist

Craft – Fuck the Universe

Dead Congregation – Graves of the Archangels

Leviathan – Scar Sighted, or maybe Lurker of Chalice S/T

Morbid Angel – Covenant

Weakling – Dead as Dreams

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