staff card pic_200x300A Lecturer in Popular Music at a British Higher Education institution, Denigrata Herself is undertaking her PhD in women in extreme metal. She is also the front woman/guitarist in Denigrata, an experimental black metal collective. Denigrata have coined the term noir concrête for their music, meaning the avant-garde dark noise initiated by Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen finds a different rhizomatic existence within their contemporary black metal performance space.

Denigrata Herself is a gender theorist whose research and publications to date focus on body performativity, reclamation of female space, tattooing, graphic novels, death metal and black metal. She is part of the International Society for the Study of Metal Music (ISMMS) and sits on various academic and equal rights boards in the UK.

For over a decade she was a lead guitarist in British death metal bands, she was signed to and worked for various independent record labels and now devotes her time to lecturing, researching and performing. She is choir master for her departmental chamber choir and presents annual post-modern renderings of canonical classical pieces with her choir, a string quartet, a contemporary band and Ableton performers.

May 2016.

Black Metal Moore and the Making of Kyrie Eleison

It was a freezing, rainy February morning. At 05.30am I am standing in my bathroom, putting on corpse paint and adjusting my antlers ready for the day’s video shoot; not your average Monday morning. I was tired, excited and anxious, all at the same time. I was told to bring towels, lunch and a good sense of humour. We all met at the location at 07.30am, a 16th century abbey, the grounds of which would serve as the setting for the shoot.

The clouds were thick overhead when we arrived, full of rain and sleet and a bitterly cold wind that whipped  around us so our hands were instantly numb and any extremity that was uncovered was red raw with it; perfect weather for black metal, not so much for hanging around all day! The troops gathered, the producer, director of photography, the band and the production assistants. And then, after a few cups of coffee, we were off. We were met by early morning dog walkers, looking puzzled but smiling at us, as a troop of corpse-painted, antler wearing oddities tramped through the fields.

We were all wearing as many layers as humanly possible and as anyone who has experienced an English winter will tell you, the cold and damp seeps into your bones; it is not a dry cold like you get in Europe or Scandinavia, it feels more insidious. And so to filming the first scenes; the coats had to come off! I’m unsure whether it translated to the video, just how much we were all shivering, but trust me, we were! But the art comes first so we took our positions, under the direction and expert eye of Cavan McLaughlin, the director and producer, with smoke bombs being let off around us. I thought to myself, ‘this is pretty cool.’ I got to scream directly into the camera and although I got my antlers stuck in a branch, much to the hilarity of everyone else, so far so good!

The next shot was where the pain started! I had to walk through some knee deep water that had pooled between two trees; it was very beautiful but I knew it was bare feet time! Manea (keys and vocals) helped me down the bank into the water, sliding all over the place ready for the shot. It was excruciatingly cold and slimy underfoot (I didn’t really want to think too much about what I was wading through; needles, dog piss, and something crunchy that cracked between my toes!). I had to do two takes of this and by this point I basically had no feeling left from the knees down! After I managed to scramble out, I estimated that it took ¾ hour to get any feeling back, which mostly involved me jumping up and down shouting ‘fuck!’…

Still, the time was fast approaching to meet our cameo for the video. This was the reason most of us were a little anxious because, you know, meeting your heroes is a daunting business! At one pm we picked all the equipment up and moved back to the fields that frame the front of the abbey to meet him. A black cab pulls up, a very tall man with a skull-topped walking cane and black leather hat unfurls from the back seat. And there he stands, Alan Moore. ‘Hullo!’ he says in his gruff, Northamptonian gravelly voice, big smiles all round. I think we said hello back but it’s difficult to know, I think I might have waved maniacally at him (always a winner!). ‘Right, where do you want me?’ and Cavan explains what is required and within twenty minutes, being the consummate pro that he is, his part is done. And just to add to this, it is not very often you get to meet someone who is responsible for so much alternative culture, so many remarkable narratives that have helped shape you and how you think about the world, and he’s just there standing in front of you, like a normal human being! Alan Moore is larger than life and is also an extremely nice man, we all laughed together and discussed the occult history of Northampton, its murders and plots (the plot to murder the two princes supposedly by Richard the Third was hatched at Northampton castle), its witch burnings and secret vaults; the man is a veritable encyclopaedia of amazing information. And then with a swoosh of his long coat and a cheery wave, he disappeared into a cab and he was gone. We all just kind of stood there in his wake, questioning whether or not we imagined the whole thing!

So after our reality was fractured by this amazing encounter, we returned to getting the rest of the shots finished. Because the wettest of all of them needed to be left until last, and darkness fell about 4pm it didn’t leave us with much time. We shot the scenes with the black scrying mirror, the bones, the blood coming out of my mouth and the lake which meant the only thing left was to actually get in it! Our production assistants were amazing, all of them on stand-by with towels, coats and as many warm things they could drape us in. We all slid down the bank and eased ourselves into the thick water with about as much grace as a goth on a skateboard! Still, we were ready and when Cavan shouted ‘action!’ we got down on our hands and knees and squelched our way through the mud. You know when you’re in pain, your brain cuts out all other information and is just screaming, well this was quite a lot like that! I can just remember the word ‘cold’ rattling around my head and through my teeth on repeat as I crawled over muddy roots, the flesh on my knees and shins scraping against the sodden, hard ground. The point at which the scene cuts as I run towards the camera doesn’t show me wriggling like crazy, trying to get the frozen blood back into my body! I know we were all really feeling the extremes of the day by this point and would have been rather fond of a cup of tea and a pair of slippers (don’t knock it, they rule!).

We were all finally done by about 10pm, all packed up and ready for a long, hot bath! We knew we would have to wait a while before we got to see any footage and we were also lucky enough for it to be graded in Soho, London. We chose to film everything on black and white film using 40 year old lenses, which gives it all a much deeper, textual rendering. When we saw the final cut, we were blown away! Everyone worked so bloody hard and Cavan really knew exactly how to make this work. We owe him a great deal.

All in all it was an incredible experience and I would urge anyone, independent or otherwise, to make a video because you will never forget it!

Denigrata, ‘Kyrie Eleison